At its core, “Joel Grey: A New York Life,” currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York, is the curatorial equivalent of an archeological dig. The retrospective relies on an exhaustive range of artifacts and ephemera from Grey’s performance career: posters, playbills and costume pieces from his shows; objects from his personal collection; and his own line drawings and photography. (Grey, who calls himself a “crazy looker,” has been taking photos for 40 years.)
If the exhibit promises to illuminate Grey’s idiosyncratic view of his adopted city — and its impact on his life — the retrospective may reveal in even clearer detail the culmination of a genuinely singular New York entertainment career.
In this interview with Paula Zahn for “Sunday Arts,” Grey remembers visiting New York for the first time as a child, “smelling Times Square, and smelling what it was like to sit in the theater and have the lights come down, and everybody running around afterwards and I thought…something’s here.”
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To complement the exhibit, the Museum of the City of New York is hosting a variety of events that will showcase the performer’s range of talents. On July 27, the Museum will screen “Cabaret,” the 1972 film in which Grey plays one of his most famous roles as the master of ceremonies. On Aug. 1, Grey himself will join an audience to discuss his life, his career and his relationship with the city. Information and tickets can be found on the Museum of the City of New York’s website.