Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Dance Party: Shades of Grey

All hail Joel Grey! 
Grey and star Sutton Foster singing
"Friendship" in Anything Goes.
The impish star celebrated his 80th birthday the other day, in the middle of an 8 show week on Broadway: he is currently playing Moonface in the revival of Anything Goes, a role very dear to my heart, as I played it in grad school.  Grey's credits are numerous, and I wrote a good bit about him on his birthday three years ago
"Mr. Cellophane," from the
Chicago revival.
In his later years, he continues to meet the challenges of a musical stage actor, appearing as the original Amos in the revival of Chicago (which still runs on without him) and as the original Wizard in Wicked (ditto.  Well, technically, Joel was not the original Wizard, as Wicked had a pre-Broadway run in San Francisco in which Robert Morse was in the role.  Morse was acting up on the road, and was replaced by Grey for the Broadway premiere).  
Robert Morse wasn't Wonderful
as Wicked's Wizard; Grey took
the role to Broadway.
Three years ago, I mentioned that our Joel was best as a supporting player;  the shows in which he was the leading man (Goodtime Charley, George M, and The Grand Tour) were not successful.  Undoubtedly, though, Grey's signature role is the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret
There is no duet for Sally and Emcee in the original Cabaret, so "Money, Money" was written for the film. It has since been added to the stage show.

It was said that Grey won his Oscar
because The Godfather boys
cancelled each other out.
Joel is one of only 8 actors in history to win both the Tony and the Oscar for playing the same role;  his winning the Academy Award was a bit of a surprise, as his competition included 3 of the Corleone clan in The Godfather (James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino were all denied the Oscar when Grey took the award).  Joel's interpretation of the Emcee remains the definitive performance of the role.
Joel owes at least part of his Oscar to director Bob Fosse, whose unique camera angles added to the sinister perspective of the Emcee.
Joel had a pretty long road to his smashing success in Broadway's Cabaret in 1966.  He had been knocking around the country for more than a decade, attempting to carve out a career as a comedian and actor. 
Bernadette Peters played George M 's sister.
His father was a little-remembered comic named Mickey Katz, and it was Grey's intention to follow in his father's footsteps, as evidenced by this week's Dance Party.  It is a clip from the Eddie Cantor show from the early 1950s, and Joel is calling himself a comic. 
But his act, even back then, had a decidedly musical comedy bent, so it was inevitable that he would end up in legitimate musical theatre. You can certainly see the beginnings of a song-and-dance man here. He is so young and ingratiating in this clip, one can forgive the cheesiness of the material. In honor of Joel Grey's 80th birthday, enjoy: