Joel Grey

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Joel Grey
Joel Grey 2014.jpg
Grey at the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards in 2014
Joel David Katz

(1932-04-11) April 11, 1932 (age 90)
  • Actor
  • dancer
  • singer
  • photographer
  • theatre director
Years active1951–present
Jo Wilder
(m. 1958;div. 1982)
Children2; including Jennifer
Relatives Ronald A. Katz (brother)

Joel Grey (born Joel David Katz; April 11, 1932) is an American actor, singer, dancer, photographer and theatre director. He is best known for portraying the Master of Ceremonies in the musical Cabaret on Broadway as well as in the 1972 film adaptation. He has won an Academy Award, a Tony Award, and a Golden Globe Award.


He also originated the role of George M. Cohan in the musical George M! in 1968 and the Wizard of Oz in the musical Wicked . He also starred as Moonface Martin and Amos Hart in the Broadway revivals of Anything Goes and Chicago , respectively.

Early life

Grey was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Goldie "Grace" (née Epstein) and Mickey Katz, an actor, comedian, and musician. Both his parents were Jewish. [1] [2] [3] He attended Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California. [4]


Grey started his career, at age 10, [5] in the Cleveland Play House's Curtain Pullers children's theatre program in the early 1940s, appearing in productions such as Grandmother Slyboots, Jack of Tarts and a lead role in their mainstage production of On Borrowed Time . [6] [7] By 1952, at age 20, he was appearing as a featured performer at the Copacabana nightclub in New York.

Grey in a publicity photo in 1955 Joel Grey - 1955.jpg
Grey in a publicity photo in 1955

He changed his last name from Katz to Grey early in his career due to the stigma associated with having a surname with an obvious ethnicity attached. [8]

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Grey appeared in several TV westerns including Maverick (1959), Bronco (1960) and Lawman (3 times in 1960 and 1961).

Grey originated the role of the Master of Ceremonies in the Broadway musical Cabaret in 1966 for which he won a Tony Award. Additional Broadway credits include Come Blow Your Horn (1961), Stop the World – I Want to Get Off (1962), Half a Sixpence (1965), George M! (1968), Goodtime Charley (1975), The Grand Tour (1979), Chicago (1996), Wicked (2003), and Anything Goes (2011). [9] In November 1995, he performed as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True , a staged concert of the popular story at Lincoln Center to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The performance was originally broadcast on Turner Network Television (TNT) in November 1995, and released on CD and video in 1996. [10]

Grey with Ann Sothern and Don Porter on The Ann Sothern Show, 1960 Ann Sothern Don Porter Joel Grey Ann Sothern Show 1960.JPG
Grey with Ann Sothern and Don Porter on The Ann Sothern Show , 1960

Grey won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in March 1973 for his performance as the Master of Ceremonies in the 1972 film version of Cabaret. [11] His victory was part of a Cabaret near-sweep, which saw Liza Minnelli win Best Actress and Bob Fosse win Best Director, although it lost the Best Picture Oscar to The Godfather. [12] For that role, Grey also won a BAFTA award for "The Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles" and Best Supporting Actor awards from the Golden Globes, Kansas City Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, National Society of Film Critics, [11] and a Tony Award for his original stage performance six years prior, making him one of only ten people who have won both a Tony Award and an Academy Award for the same role. [13]

He has performed at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri, in roles such as George M. Cohan in George M! (1970 and 1992), [14] the Emcee in Cabaret (1971), and Joey Evans in Pal Joey (1983). [1] At the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Grey played the title role in their production of Platonov (1977).

Grey appeared as a panelist for the television game show What's My Line? in the 1967 season, as well as being the first Mystery Guest during its syndication in 1968. He was the guest star for the fifth episode of The Muppet Show in its first season in 1976, singing "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago and "Willkommen" from Cabaret . He also played Master of Sinanju Chiun, Remo's elderly Korean martial arts master in the movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), a role that garnered him a Saturn Award and a second Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Chiun's character was popular for the lines "Meat of cow kills", and "You move like a pregnant yak", from the movie. In 1991, he played Adam, a devil, in the final episode of the television series Dallas (1991). [15] That same year, Grey also appeared in the American Repertory Theatre's production of When We Dead Awaken at the Sao Paulo Biennale. In 1993 he starred in New York Stage & Film's production of John Patrick Shanley's A Fool and Her Fortune and received an "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series" Emmy nomination for his recurring role as Jacob Prossman on the television series Brooklyn Bridge . In 1995, he made a guest appearance on Star Trek: Voyager as an aging rebel seeking to free his (deceased) wife [16] from prison. [17] In 1999, he starred in Brian Friel's Give Me Your Answer, Do! mounted by Roundabout Theatre Company.

Grey at the 45th Emmy Awards, 1993 Joel Grey 1993 3.jpg
Grey at the 45th Emmy Awards, 1993

In 2000, Grey played Oldrich Novy in the film Dancer in the Dark and had recurring television roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as the evil reptilian demon Doc, 2001), Oz (as Lemuel Idzik, 2003) and Alias (as "Another Mr. Sloane", 2005). He played a wealthy, paroled ex-convict on Law & Order: Criminal Intent (episode "Cuba Libre", 2003). Grey also originated the role of the Wizard of Oz in the hit Broadway musical Wicked . He also appeared on the shows House and Brothers & Sisters (2007), on the latter of which he played the role of Dr. Bar-Shalom, Sarah and Joe's marriage counselor. He appeared as Izzie's high school teacher who needs treatment for dementia in Grey's Anatomy (2009). [17] [18] [19] [20]

Grey returned to Broadway in spring 2011 as Moonface Martin in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Anything Goes at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. [21] He also played Ned in the 1985 Off-Broadway production of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart , and went on to co-direct the Tony Award-winning revival in 2011. [22]

In 2018, Grey directed a Yiddish-language production of Fiddler on the Roof , which originated at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, then transferred to Stage 42 Off-Broadway. The production became a surprise hit, running for over a year and winning the 2019 Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Musical Revival. [23]

Personal life

Grey with then-wife Jo Wilder in 1979 Joel Grey (285968318).jpg
Grey with then-wife Jo Wilder in 1979

In 1958, Grey married Jo Wilder; they divorced in 1982. Together, they had two children: actress Jennifer Grey (star of the film Dirty Dancing ) and chef James Grey. [1] [24]

He is a photographer; his first book of photographs, Pictures I Had to Take, was published in 2003; its follow-up, Looking Hard at Unexpected Things, was published in 2006. [25] His third book, 1.3 – Images from My Phone, a book of photographs taken with his camera phone, was published in 2009. [26] An exhibition of his work was held in April 2011 at the Museum of the City of New York, titled "Joel Grey/A New York Life." [27] His fourth book, The Billboard Papers: Photographs by Joel Grey, came out in 2013 and depicts the many-layered billboards of New York City. [28]

In January 2015, Grey discussed his sexuality in an interview with People , stating: "I don't like labels, but if you have to put a label on it, I'm a gay man." [29] Grey writes about his family, his acting career, and the challenges of being gay in his 2016 memoir, Master of Ceremonies. [30]


1952 About Face Bender
1957 Calypso Heat Wave Alex Nash
1961 Come September Beagle
1972 Cabaret Master of Ceremonies
1974 Man on a Swing Franklin Wills
1976 The Seven-Per-Cent Solution Lowenstein
1976 Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson Nate Salsbury
1985 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins Master of Sinanju Chiun
1991 Kafka Burgel
1992 Tom and Jerry: The Movie Narrator
1992 The Player HimselfCameo
1993 The Music of Chance Willy Stone
1994The Dangerous"Flea"
1995 Venus Rising Jimmie
1996 The Empty Mirror Joseph Goebbels
1996 My Friend Joe Simon
2000 The Fantasticks Amos Babcock Bellamy
2000 Dancer in the Dark Oldrich Novy
2001Reaching NormalDr. Mensley
2008 Choke Phil
2021 Tick, Tick... Boom! "Sunday" Legend
1951–1954 The Colgate Comedy Hour Himself4 episodes
1954 Pond's Theater PerformerEpisode: "Forty Weeks of Uncle Tom"
1956 Jack and the Beanstalk Jack Producers' Showcase
1957 Telephone Time RayEpisode: "The Intruder"
1957 December Bride Jimmy3 episodes
1957 The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom Himself4 episodes
1958 The Court of Last Resort Floyd ToddEpisode: "The Todd-Loomis Case"
1958 Little Women Theodore "Laurie" Laurence Television film
1959 Maverick Billy "The Kid" Episode: "Full House"
1960 Bronco Samson "Runt" BowlesEpisode: "Masquerade"
1960 The Ann Sothern Show Billy WiltonEpisode: "Billy"
1960 Surfside 6 WillyEpisode: "The Clown"
1960–1961 Lawman Owny O'Reilly3 episodes
1961 Westinghouse Playhouse HerbieEpisode: "Nanette's Teenage Suitor"
1961 77 Sunset Strip Joey KelloggEpisode: "Open and Close in One"
1966My Lucky PennyFreddy RockefellerPilot
1966 Vacation Playhouse Freddy RockfellerEpisode: "My Lucky Penny"
1970 George M! George M. Cohan Television movie
1971 Ironside Mike JaegerEpisode: "A Killing at the Track"
1972 Night Gallery Andrew MacBaneEpisode: "There Aren't Any More MacBanes"
1972Man on a StringJoe "Big Joe" BrownTelevision film
1973 The $10,000 Pyramid Himself / Celebrity GuestSeason One: August 13–17, 1973
Peggy Cass vs. Joel Grey [31]
1974 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Narrator / Mr. Trundel (voice)Television film
1974 The Carol Burnett Show GarySegment: "Carol and Sis"
1976 The Muppet Show Himself (guest)Episode: "Joel Grey"
1981 Paddington HimselfHost
1982 Alice Himself2 episodes
1982 The Yeomen of the Guard Jack PointTelevision film
1987 Queenie Aaron Diamond2 episodes
1991 Matlock Tommy DeLucaEpisode: "The Critic"
1991 Dallas AdamEpisode: "Conundrum"
1992–1993 Brooklyn Bridge Jacob Prossman2 episodes
1995 The Wizard of Oz in Concert:
Dreams Come True
Narrator / The Wizard / Various RolesTelevision benefit performance
for the Children's Defense Fund
1995 Star Trek: Voyager CaylemEpisode: "Resistance"
1999–2000 The Outer Limits Dr. Neil Seward / Gideon Banks2 episodes
1999 A Christmas Carol Ghost of Christmas Past Television film
2001 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Doc 3 episodes
2001 Touched by an Angel Ronald2 episodes
2001 Further Tales of the City Guido3 episodes
2003 Oz Lemuel Idzik 6 episodes
2003 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Milton WintersEpisode: "Cuba Libre"
2005 Alias Another Mr. Sloane3 episodes
2005 Crossing Jordan Carl Meisner, Amnesia VictimEpisode: "Forget Me Not"
2006 House Dr. Ezra PowellEpisode: "Informed Consent"
2007 Brothers & Sisters Dr. Jude Bar-ShalomEpisode: "Love Is Difficult"
2008 Phineas and Ferb Beppo (voice)Episode: "The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferbenstein/Oil on Candace"
2009 Private Practice Dr. Alexander BallEpisode: "Nothing to Fear"
2009 Grey's Anatomy Dr. SingerEpisode: "New History"
2012 Nurse Jackie Dick BobbittEpisode: "Day of the Iguana"
2013 Warehouse 13 Monty, The MagnificentEpisode: "The Sky's the Limit"
2014 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Hank KassermanEpisode: "Keep Calm and Carry On"
2014 Park Bench with Steve Buscemi HimselfEpisode: "Benchmark"
2022 The Old Man Morgan Bote3 episodes
1951Borscht CapadesPerformerCredited as Joel Kaye
Royale Theatre, Broadway
1956The Littlest RevuePerformer Phoenix Theatre, Broadway
1961 Come Blow Your Horn Buddy Baker Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway
1962 Stop the World – I Want to Get Off Littlechap Shubert Theatre, Broadway
1965 Half a Sixpence Arthur Kipps Broadhurst Theatre, Broadway
1966 Cabaret Master of Ceremonies
1968 George M! George M. Cohan Palace Theatre, Broadway
1975 Goodtime Charley Charley
1977 Marco Polo Sings a Solo Stony McBride The Public Theatre, Off-Broadway
1979 The Grand Tour S.L. Jacobowsky Palace Theatre, Broadway
1985 The Normal Heart Ned Weeks The Public Theatre, Off-Broadway
1987 Cabaret Master of Ceremonies Imperial Theatre, Broadway
1991 When We Dead Awaken PerformerAmerican Repertory Theatre
1996 Chicago Amos Hart Richard Rodgers Theatre, Broadway
1999Give Me Your Answer, Do!Jack Donovan Roundabout Theatre Company
2003 Wicked The Wizard of Oz George Gershwin Theatre, Broadway
2011 Anything Goes "Moonface" Martin Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Broadway
2011 The Normal Heart Director
John Golden Theatre, Broadway
2016 The Cherry Orchard Firs American Airlines Theatre, Broadway
2018 Fiddler on the Roof (Fidler Afn Dakh) Director; American premiere of the play in Yiddish
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Awards and nominations

1972 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Cabaret Won [32]
1972 British Academy Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Won [33]
1975 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actor in a Musical Goodtime Charley Nominated [34]
1979 The Grand Tour Nominated [35]
1988 Cabaret Nominated [36]
1997 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Chicago Won [37]
2000 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Give Me Your Answer, Do!Nominated [38]
2011 Outstanding Director of a Play The Normal Heart Won [39]
2019 Outstanding Director of a Musical Fiddler on the Roof (Fidler Afn Dakh) Nominated [40]
1972 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture CabaretWon [41]
1985 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins Nominated
2012 Grammy Awards Best Musical Theater Album Anything Goes Nominated [42]
1972 National Board of Review Awards Best Supporting Actor CabaretWon [lower-alpha 1] [43]
1972 National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actor Won [lower-alpha 2] [44]
1993 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Brooklyn Bridge Nominated [45]
1967 Tony Awards Best Featured Actor in a Musical CabaretWon [46]
1969 Best Leading Actor in a Musical George M! Nominated [47]
1975 Goodtime CharleyNominated [48]
1979 The Grand TourNominated [49]
2011 Best Direction of a Play The Normal HeartNominated [50]

For his continued support of Broadway, Grey was named a Givenik Ambassador. [51]

He was presented with a lifetime achievement award on June 10, 2013, by The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene. [52]

Grey won the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre on December 5, 2016, presented by the York Theatre Company in New York City. The theatre said, in part: "we are thrilled to celebrate the extraordinary Joel Grey, whose artistry — for over half a century — has become an indelible part of Broadway history." [53]

Grey was honored as The New Jewish Home's Eight Over Eighty Gala 2015 honoree.

Grey was presented with the Teddy Kollek Award by the World Jewish Congress in November 2019. [54]

See also


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