At 83, Joel Grey is a lifelong entertainer who created an iconic stage and screen role, fathered a movie star in her own right and came out as gay in early 2015. And his memoir checks in at a grand total of 256 pages?
Please, sir, we want some more.
But until that happens, we’ll take what we can get. And we get a very readable memoir indeed with as Grey—best known as the master of ceremonies in Cabaret—pulls few punches while galloping from his childhood in Cleveland to marriage and a family in Hollywood and finally fulfillment as a gay man in New York.
Along the way, we get enough neuroses to make a team of Viennese specialists complain about overwork. (Spoiler alert: It all started with his mother.) It’s been a life of personal struggle, and not just with his sexuality—or, as he puts it, his “sexual war with myself.” So Master of Ceremonies works on two levels: as a show-business memoir, and as a tale of personal redemption. Like his character in Cabaret, Grey was a master at hiding his true identity.
Grey is at his best when recounting his childhood years as part of a sprawling Jewish family that missed its calling by not pitching its own sitcom. Exposed to the stage at an early age, he’s never really left—literally or figuratively.
As for his involvement with Cabaret, Grey doesn’t disappoint when it comes to anecdotes, including a thoughtful recounting of how he came to interpret his role. (Fortunately for him, his big chance came along when he was playing a “crappy pirate” on Long Island.)
As for his personal journey, Grey doesn’t disappoint there, either. You’ll find yourself rooting for him just as hard in real life as on the stage or screen.