Grey Gardens

UWEC faculty play lead roles in historical musical

Bailey Berg, photos by Andrea Paulseth

STEP TO IT. UWEC faculty members Mitra Sadeghpour (left) and Toni Poll-Sorenson (right) star in the upcoming adaptation of Grey Gardens.

UW-Eau Claire music and theater professors Richard Nimke, Toni Poll-Sorensen, and Mitra Sadeghpour have teamed up to bring the acclaimed Broadway musical Grey Gardens to the local stage. Based on the documentary of the same title, the musical centers on the lives of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beal and her adult daughter “Little Edie,” aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – a famously upper class and privileged duo that wound up in utter squalor.

“We’ve worked and collaborated together before, but this was the first time we had the vehicle to work in this capacity,” Nimke said.

While Nimke directs, Poll-Sorensen does the choreography and Sadeghpour focuses on vocal specialties. But this effort is different in the sense that it allows Nimke to direct the two fellow faculty members as they also act as Edith at different points in her life.

“It’s a really unique experience, because it’s faculty and students performing together,” Mitra said. “I’m so glad to be a part of it.”

Act I opens in 1941, where the Edies are the aristocrats of their time, living in the lap of luxury. “It starts out really bright and fun; they’re getting ready for a big party, and the daughter is about to be engaged to Joe Kennedy,” Mitra explained. “It’s so unique because it shows how their fortunes have changed in 30 years.”

The second act, in the 1970s, deals with the fall of the duo into a flea-infested, decaying mansion filled with garbage and ridden with cats, raccoons, and opossums. “While physically our characters are in the decaying Grey Gardens, in their heads they still think they’re back in their glory days, 40 years past,” Toni said

While the score in Act I encompasses music from the time (like classical jazz), Nimke explained that Act II is more contemporary, as the songs flow in and out of the dialogue and become part of it.

“It’s a great mother-daughter story. They bicker, but they are actually really close. It’s very bittersweet,” Mitra said.

Grey Gardens • Feb. 25-28 to March 3-6 • Kjer Theatre, 105 Garfield Ave., Eau Claire • 7:30pm all days but Feb. 28 (1:30pm show) • $12 general, $8 youth, $10 seniors/students/faculty • 836-3727

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