About two dozen of Atlanta’s finest actresses tried out for the roles of Big Edie and Little Edie in the musical “Grey Gardens,” which opens this weekend at Actor’s Express. “These were the cream of the crop,” said director Freddie Ashley. The roles of the Edith Bouvier Beales — an eccentric mother and daughter who have fallen from high society to a life of squalor on Long Island, were awarded to Jill Hames and Kathleen McManus.
“It was a tricky casting challenge because the actresses have to be able to pass as the same person without being literal twins,” Ashley said. The actress who plays socialite Big Edie in the first act (Hames, left) also plays the reclusive Little Edie in the second act. McManus plays Big Edie in Act 2.
“They have to be able to approach the characters with some degree of consistency. They have to be able to sing, and not just sing well, because the music is deceptively complex.”
Why such demand for the parts?
“They’re so layered and rich and complicated,” Ashley said, “and the emotional lives are so complex and deep.”
“Grey Gardens” became a favorite of the new Fall season almost the moment it was announced — and the box office seems to back that up. Sunday’s opening night is sold out, as is Saturday’s final preview performance. Thursday and Friday preview performances this week are close to full. “That’s very unusual for us,” Ashley said. The show runs through Oct. 10. Tickets: 404-607-7469.