Max And Louie Productions To Put On Production Of Musical “Grey Gardens”

Bill Loellke – Vital Voice, Jun 21, 2016

Max and Louie Productions is gearing up to put on their production of Grey Gardens, a musical adaptation of the documentary of the same name which followed the mother/daughter relationship between two reclusive, former upper class women both named Edith Beale.

“It sort of what we think of as reality TV today,” lead actress, Debby Lennon, says. “The day in and day out of the lives of these two women in front of the camera interacting with each other and just how natural it was.”

Lennon plays the lead dual role of Big and Little Edie in the musical. Lennon had not acted in a lead role for a few years, instead doing other things like overlooking the vocal jazz program in Webster University as a part of the adjunct faculty. She first heard about the role through exam week at Webster, when both the musical theatre and vocal departments came together to listen to students perform.

One of those students performed a song from Grey Gardens. Lennon turned to Neal Richardson, who is the musical director of the production. He said that he was still looking for someone to play Edie. Richardson asked Lennon if she would be interested in singing for the role. She jumped at the chance, being a big fan of the documentary and musical. She auditioned and received the call the day before Christmas that she got the part.

“It was amazing,” Lennon says. “What a way to kind of come back into theater after being away for many years.”

Lennon gravitated to the role of Edie because of her personality, her sense of style and her dialect, which she specifically says fascinates her and really shows off her personality. She says the role requires a lot of stamina.

“It’s [dialect] sort of a hybrid of her education, the part of the country she came from and all of the influences,” Lennon says. “It’s Herculean, vocally and emotionally.”

She plays Big Edie, the mother, in Act I and then plays Little Edie, the daughter, in Act II. There are major differences between the two characters that Lennon has to portray, with the big one being the change in musical styles. She describes the first act as containing more George Gershwin-esque music and the second act more contemporary which she says evokes the psychology of where Little Edie is in her life.

“It’s crazy and hard and wonderful and very challenging,” Lennon says.

Richardson says he is very thankful for the cast he is working with, which consists of a small ensemble. He says Lennon really embodies her dual roles.

“She’s a big personality with a big, dramatic voice who’s very loving and kind and generous,” Richardson says.

Richardson says the documentary is widely praised because it is just like one of the earliest examples of reality television. For Richardson, these women, who are relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy, are very high-class people who change completely near the end of their lives when their wealth evaporated.

“That’s a kind of fascinating story to watch,” Richardson explains.

Richardson says turning the documentary into a show with musical numbers adds more to the story because music is a part of these two women’s lives.

“Some people think musicals kind of distract from the story,” Richardson says. “I believe in the hands of very smart and artistic people, that music can make a show go deeper into a person’s psyche. This show, I believe, is one of the more successful examples of that.”

Performances will take place at The Wool Studio Theatre in the JCC’s Staenberg Family Complex on July 8-10, 13-17, 20-24 and 27-30. Wednesday through Saturday performances will be at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances will be at 2 p.m. A special performance will take place July 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets will cost $45 for general admission, $35 for students with a valid ID and $35 for seniors 65 years of age and over.