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‘Gardens’ to bloom again

Tuner locks up doc

NEW YORK — “Grey Gardens” has come full circle.

Albert Maysles has begun work on a documentary chronicling, in part, the development of the Broadway tuner “Grey Gardens” — itself based on the cult 1976 doc by Maysles and his late brother and filmmaking partner, David.

New hourlong pic aims to examine the cultural phenom of “Gardens,” from the making of the original movie to the cult following it inspired to the process of staging the musical on Broadway. The show opened Nov. 2 at the Walter Kerr Theater.

Maysles has followed the tuner since it began preparations for the move to the Rialto after a hit run at Off Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons last spring. Film will feature interviews with the Rialto production’s creatives and casts, including book writer Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel, lyricist Michael Korie and thesp Christine Ebersole, whose performance won universal raves from the Off Broadway incarnation.

Producers of the new doc — Kelly Gonda (also prexy of East of Doheny, the lead producing org behind the tuner), Tracey Trench, and Lora Nelson and Maureen Ryan for Maysles Films — haven’t yet decided how the picture will be released. They are talking to several cable channels and considering a theatrical release.

The still-untitled film is just the latest example of the resurgence of interest the tuner has helped ignite in Big Edie and Little Edie Beale. Eccentric fringe figures from the Kennedys’ Camelot world (they were respectively aunt and cousin to Jackie O), the mother-daughter duo’s life in the run-down East Hampton, N.Y., mansion of the title is the subject of “Grey Gardens.”

Maysles Films recently released a companion pic to “Grey Gardens,” “The Beales of Grey Gardens,” compiled of outtakes from the original. That feature-length pic will be included in the Criterion Collection DVD reissue, due in December.

Gail Sheehy, the scribe who wrote a 1972 article in New York magazine that helped call attention to the Beales, has revisited the subject with a new piece in last week’s edition of the mag.

And Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore will play the mother and daughter, respectively, in a feature film based on their lives. Filmmaker Michael Sucsy will incorporate information gleaned from correspondence and journals.

As for the Broadway version, skeptics wondered whether the subject matter was too Gotham-culty to draw crowds, and whether the tuner’s unorthodox structure might render it less accessible to general auds. (The show is divided into two wildly different acts, with the first offering a look at the Beales in their glory days in the 1940s and the second turning its attention to the 1970s-era squalor chronicled in the documentary.)

But so far, legiters, including the show’s Rialto landlords, seem impressed by how well “Grey Gardens” is selling. For the week ending Oct. 29, the tuner sold just over $400,000 in tickets, a decent showing for a new musical in a small theater still waiting on its Broadway reviews.

Insiders expect a further spike in sales after reviews hit stands Nov. 3.

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