Tending Grey Gardens: In Broadway's Performance of the Year, Tony Winner Christine Ebersole Resurrects "Little" Edie Beale

By Broverman, Neal | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), January 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Tending Grey Gardens: In Broadway's Performance of the Year, Tony Winner Christine Ebersole Resurrects "Little" Edie Beale


Broverman, Neal, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


In the back of New York's Walter Kerr Theatre, above the wine bar and candy kiosk, T-shirts for sale hang high proclaiming, "LITTLE" EDIE BEALE LIVES! That's no overstatement. Christine Ebersole's nuanced performance in the Broadway musical Grey Gardens brings "Little" Edie to life so completely, it's like seeing a ghost.

"I think in a way Edie was an earth angel who came down from heaven to heal the world," says Ebersole in her crimson-carpeted dressing room underneath 48th Street. "[Her story] is about the disenfranchised, the people pushed to the outside."

That's one reason gay audiences have been enraptured with "Little" Edie and her mother, Edith Bouvier Beale, since the women were profiled in the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens. The film covered six weeks in the life of the eccentric mother and daughter, close relatives of Jackie O. and once East Coast aristocracy, who by the 1970s were whiling away their days in and around a crumbling, flea-infested mansion in East Hampton, N.Y. The gay devotion also has something to do with the tragic heroines the Beales were--faded but still beautiful, defeated yet invincible.

Ebersole plays both the 1940s "Big" Edie and the '70s "Little" Edie in Grey Gardens the musical. Her ability to so truly capture the Beales' complexities has had critics bowing in praise ever since she originated the roles off-Broadway early in 2006. Tony talk says her portrayal of "Little" Edie guarantees Ebersole her second award, after taking home the Best Actress in a Musical honor in 2001 for 42nd Street. …

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