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Ordway’s ‘Grey Gardens’ cast likes HBO film version, too

With the musical “Grey Gardens” currently playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, I wondered whether the cast there might be watching last weekend, when HBO premiered its movie version.

Both productions chronicle the riches-to-rags story of Edith Bouvier Beale and her adult daughter Edith, respectively the aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. A classic 1975 documentary first showed how the former socialists were living in squalor.

It turns out the Ordway folks did check out the movie, which stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.

Fueled with a special concoction —  a Grey Gardens martini (a gray-colored martini – like dirty water — with pineapple subbing for tiny ears of corn) – the cast, crew and friends enjoyed the show.

David Hermann, Ordway’s hair designer, showed up in full “Little” Edie drag and played the grande dame all night long.

Jim Stolz, a St. Paul-based psychotherapist who watched with the group, brought  empanadas to the party: “I was worried about attending a pot luck for ‘Grey Gardens’ because I thought there would only be liver pate out of a cat food can and corn on a hot plate.” (There actually was plenty of palatable food.)

Some observations, relayed by James Rocco, co-director of the Ordway’s production:

“Edie sure was an acquired taste and one I relish,” Rocco said. “The woman was a genius, told it like it was and coined some phrases that I spout on a regular basis.  It was odd that in spite of the lack of plumbing at Grey Gardens, both Lange and Barrymore looked pretty clean. Christina Baldwin [who plays Little Edie, the same role as Barrymore] has been taking the part more seriously and has not used a bathroom in 10 weeks.” 

He was kidding.

Wendy Lehr plays Big Edie at the Ordway, and after finding all kinds of nuances and interpretations for her actions, she was anxious to see what Jessica Lange had found, Rocco said.

Jeff Scott, a St. Paul attorney who’s a big fan of the Ordway production and attended the party, said: “The movie ends with Edie’s nightclub performance, on New Year’s Eve at New York’s famed Reno Sweeney, after her mother had died and the home was finally sold.  She sings in the little cabaret, forgetting the words, dancing like a child, beaming with happiness, and we feel, in the brokenness of her little act, as she kicks and struts, finally and completely free.”

“We all loved this moment and wished an actual recording of Edie’s act existed. Suffice it to say, we were all singing ‘Tea for Two’ long after the movie ended,” said Jayme McDaniel, co-director of the Ordway production.

There’s a YouTube trailer of the Ordway production.

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