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Friday, October 9, 2015

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Get up close and personal with Broadway legend

Tags: Arts Cabaret HGJTC Joel Grey
Joel Grey

With his life’s story fresh in his mind as he pens his memoir, Broadway-legend Joel Grey is getting ready to share his thoughts with an intimate Toronto audience.

The Broadway legend, who is perhaps best known for his role as the MC in Cabaret (for which he won both a Tony Award and an Oscar), will be performing Joel Grey: Up Close and Personal, kicking off Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company (HGJTC)’s 2014-15 season.

He described the show as a conversation between him and New York City-based TV interviewer Budd Mishkin, interspersed with film clips as well as songs accompanied by pianist David Gursky.

“There will be a Q&A towards the end. It will be like people in my living room hanging out and asking me questions, and me singing some of the material that I’ve been lucky enough to be connected with over the years,” he said, adding that he’ll choose the songs that mean the most to him and his audience. There will definitely be music from Cabaret, George M!. and Chicago, he teased.

When approached by the HGJTC, Grey said it sounded like a lot of fun. “I have always had great times in Toronto,” he said, reminiscing on when he performed Cabaret there. He’s also been through the city for live benefits and other TV performances.

Grey has been performing since the 1950s, making his theatrical debut at nine in the Cleveland Playhouse production of On Borrowed Time. The 82-year-old recently revisited that play as director for Two River Theater Company’s 20th Anniversary Season in New Jersey. 

Grey ventured into the family business, following his father Mickey Katz, who was known for blending comedy and klezmer music. Grey promised that there would be a great deal about his father during his Toronto engagement.

“He was a great man,” he said, adding that there were some Jews who opposed his father’s work since they did not  want Yiddishkeit to be carried on. “It was sort of like Jewish anti-Semitism and he wouldn’t hear of it.”

The actor made his Broadway debut in Neil Simon’s first comedy hit, Come Blow Your Horn, in 1961. His Broadway credits include the Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, Half a Sixpence, Cabaret, George M!, Goodtime Charley, Chicago, Wicked and most recently, Anything Goes

Film credits include Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Kafka, The Player, The Music of Chance, The Fantasticks and Choke. His television appearances include OZ, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, House, Private Practice, Grey’s Anatomy, and Nurse Jackie. Grey was recently honored for his illustrious television career by The Paley Center for Media in both New York and Los Angeles. 

In addition to his acting, Grey is also an accomplished photographer currently working on his fifth book. He said he constantly took pictures, but never thought of himself as a photographer. However, one day, an editor asked him to submit some photos for a book, and once he saw the photos, he wanted more.

“He said give me everything you’ve got, and I did,” Grey said. “Three weeks later, he had made a dummy of a book, called Pictures I Had to Take, and it went immediately to print, and next thing I knew I had a gallery show in Soho.” 

From a comedian to an actor and back, Grey said he could never have predicted where his life would take him.

“It has been and still is, an interesting journey,” he said, “and I will talk about that [in Toronto].”

Joel Grey: Up Close and Personal will run at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on Sept. 13 at 8 pm, Sept. 14 at 7:30 pm and Sept. 15 at 8 pm. To purchase tickets , call Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-2787, or buy them online at

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