Relive eras of the past in TBT’s ‘Grey Gardens’

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ most scandalous relatives are the subject of the musical comedy/drama, “Grey Gardens,” debuting next week at Thunder Bay Theatre.

Once Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Little Edie were rich, polished aristocrats. Then the two became East Hampton’s most notorious recluses, living in a dilapidated 28-room mansion overrun by their 51 cats and cited for repeated health code violations.

Set in two eras 1941when the celebrated estate was the picture of wealth and sophistication, and 1973 after it had been reduced to squalor “Grey Gardens” is a hilarious and heart-breaking look at two indomitable women with complicated mother/daughter dynamics.

“People are going to see wonderful characterizations living on stage and the music is really nice,” said new core company member Jeffrey Mindock, who plays different characters in each of the show’s two acts.

“Grey Gardens,” which opens Sept. 26, marks the community’s first opportunity to see Mindock and the other new TBT core company actors in action. Amy Groen appears at Little Edie in the first act set in 1941. Long-time TBT veteran Nickie Hilton plays her mother, known as Big Edie.

By Act II, as the actors have aged to 1973 standards, as the show is written, Hilton becomes the older Little Edie, and Terry Carlson, a highly regarded local performer, takes on the role of the older Big Edie. Rocky Cooper, another new core company performer, plays George Gould Strong.

Other roles in the show are filled by Scott Meier as Major Bouvier, Nick Hartman as both Brooks Sr. in Act I and Brooks Jr. in Act II, Allison Kania as Jackie, Brynna Smith as Lee and core company member Chelsea Jenkins as an ensemble singer.

The show is based on a book by Doug Wright with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. It originally opened off-Broadway in 2006, then moved to Broadway that same year. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning three. The making of the musical also became a documentary in 2007.

Kevin Reams, the new artistic director at TBT, said the original off-Broadway production took place on a smaller stage that was just a little bigger than TBT’s stage. He also said designing and building the set presented a challenge, since in the first act it needs to appear as a grand mansion and in the second act become a dilapidated property. He hopes theatre goers will turn out in force to see the production, especially since it only runs for two weeks.

“Come see us,” Reams said. “Don’t wait until the end of the run. Hopefully we will be sold out by then.”

The production crew behind “Grey Gardens” includes Reams as director, Jenkins as stage manager/costumer, Groen as props mistress, Hilton as technical director, Mindock as assistant technical director and Cooper as music director. Choreography is by Lara Dunleavy Torres and Bunny Lyon serves as assistant music director.

The show runs Sept. 26-29 and Oct. 3-6. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call the TBT box office at 354-2267.