Joel Grey
Joel Grey 2014.jpg
Grey in 2014
Joel David Katz

(1932-04-11) April 11, 1932 (age 91)
  • Actor
  • dancer
  • singer
  • photographer
  • theatre director
Years active1951–present
Jo Wilder
(m. 1958; div. 1982)
Children2; including Jennifer
RelativesRonald 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
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

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 from prison.[16][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
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
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]

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.[24] His third book, 1.3 – Images from My Phone, a book of photographs taken with his camera phone, was published in 2009.[25] 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."[26] His fourth book, The Billboard Papers: Photographs by Joel Grey, came out in 2013 and depicts the many-layered billboards of New York City.[27]

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."[28] Grey writes about his family, his acting career, and the challenges of being gay in his 2016 memoir, Master of Ceremonies.[29]


Year Title Role Notes
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 Himself Cameo
1993 The Music of Chance Willy Stone
1994 The 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
2001 Reaching Normal Dr. Mensley
2008 Choke Phil
2021 Tick, Tick... Boom! "Sunday" Legend
Year Title Role Notes
1951–1954 The Colgate Comedy Hour Himself 4 episodes
1954 Pond's Theater Performer Episode: "Forty Weeks of Uncle Tom"
1956 Jack and the Beanstalk Jack Producers' Showcase
1957 Telephone Time Ray Episode: "The Intruder"
1957 December Bride Jimmy 3 episodes
1957 The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom Himself 4 episodes
1958 The Court of Last Resort Floyd Todd Episode: "The Todd-Loomis Case"
1958 Little Women Theodore "Laurie" Laurence Television film
1959 Maverick Billy "The Kid" Episode: "Full House"
1960 Bronco Samson "Runt" Bowles Episode: "Masquerade"
1960 The Ann Sothern Show Billy Wilton Episode: "Billy"
1960 Surfside 6 Willy Episode: "The Clown"
1960–1961 Lawman Owny O'Reilly 3 episodes
1961 Westinghouse Playhouse Herbie Episode: "Nanette's Teenage Suitor"
1961 77 Sunset Strip Joey Kellogg Episode: "Open and Close in One"
1966 My Lucky Penny Freddy Rockefeller Pilot
1966 Vacation Playhouse Freddy Rockfeller Episode: "My Lucky Penny"
1970 George M! George M. Cohan Television movie
1971 Ironside Mike Jaeger Episode: "A Killing at the Track"
1972 Night Gallery Andrew MacBane Episode: "There Aren't Any More MacBanes"
1972 Man on a String Joe "Big Joe" Brown Television film
1973 The $10,000 Pyramid Himself / Celebrity Guest Season One: August 13–17, 1973
Peggy Cass vs. Joel Grey[30]
1974 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Narrator / Mr. Trundel (voice) Television film
1974 The Carol Burnett Show Gary Segment: "Carol and Sis"
1976 The Muppet Show Himself (guest) Episode: "Joel Grey"
1981 Paddington Himself Host
1982 Alice Himself 2 episodes
1982 The Yeomen of the Guard Jack Point Television film
1987 Queenie Aaron Diamond 2 episodes
1991 Matlock Tommy DeLuca Episode: "The Critic"
1991 Dallas Adam Episode: "Conundrum"
1992–1993 Brooklyn Bridge Jacob Prossman 2 episodes
1995 The Wizard of Oz in Concert:
Dreams Come True
Narrator / The Wizard / Various Roles Television benefit performance
for the Children's Defense Fund
1995 Star Trek: Voyager Caylem Episode: "Resistance"
1999–2000 The Outer Limits Dr. Neil Seward / Gideon Banks 2 episodes
1999 A Christmas Carol Ghost of Christmas Past Television film
2001 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Doc 3 episodes
2001 Touched by an Angel Ronald 2 episodes
2001 Further Tales of the City Guido 3 episodes
2003 Oz Lemuel Idzik 6 episodes
2003 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Milton Winters Episode: "Cuba Libre"
2005 Alias Another Mr. Sloane 3 episodes
2005 Crossing Jordan Carl Meisner, Amnesia Victim Episode: "Forget Me Not"
2006 House Dr. Ezra Powell Episode: "Informed Consent"
2007 Brothers & Sisters Dr. Jude Bar-Shalom Episode: "Love Is Difficult"
2008 Phineas and Ferb Beppo (voice) Episode: "The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferbenstein/Oil on Candace"
2009 Private Practice Dr. Alexander Ball Episode: "Nothing to Fear"
2009 Grey's Anatomy Dr. Singer Episode: "New History"
2012 Nurse Jackie Dick Bobbitt Episode: "Day of the Iguana"
2013 Warehouse 13 Monty, The Magnificent Episode: "The Sky's the Limit"
2014 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Hank Kasserman Episode: "Keep Calm and Carry On"
2014 Park Bench with Steve Buscemi Himself Episode: "Benchmark"
2022 The Old Man Morgan Bote 3 episodes
Year Title Role Notes/Venue
1951 Borscht Capades Performer Credited as Joel Kaye
Royale Theatre, Broadway
1956 The Littlest Revue Performer 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 Performer American Repertory Theatre
1996 Chicago Amos Hart Richard Rodgers Theatre, Broadway
1999 Give 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

Year Award Category Work Result Ref(s)
1972 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Cabaret Won [31]
1972 British Academy Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Won [32]
1975 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actor in a Musical Goodtime Charley Nominated [33]
1979 The Grand Tour Nominated [34]
1988 Cabaret Nominated [35]
1997 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Chicago Won [36]
2000 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Give Me Your Answer, Do! Nominated [37]
2011 Outstanding Director of a Play The Normal Heart Won [38]
2019 Outstanding Director of a Musical Fiddler on the Roof (Fidler Afn Dakh) Nominated [39]
1972 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Cabaret Won [40]
1985 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins Nominated
2012 Grammy Awards Best Musical Theater Album Anything Goes Nominated [41]
1972 National Board of Review Awards Best Supporting Actor Cabaret Won[a] [42]
1972 National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actor Won[b] [43]
1993 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Brooklyn Bridge Nominated [44]
1967 Tony Awards Best Featured Actor in a Musical Cabaret Won [45]
1969 Best Leading Actor in a Musical George M! Nominated [46]
1975 Goodtime Charley Nominated [47]
1979 The Grand Tour Nominated [48]
2011 Best Direction of a Play The Normal Heart Nominated [49]

For his continued support of Broadway, Grey was named a Givenik Ambassador.[50]

He was presented with a lifetime achievement award on June 10, 2013, by The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene.[51]

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."[52]

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.[53]

See also


  1. ^ Tied with Al Pacino for The Godfather.
  2. ^ Tied with Eddie Albert for The Heartbreak Kid.


  1. ^ a b c "Joel Grey Biography (1932–)". Film Reference. Retrieved February 23, 2014.
  2. ^ Stratton, Bert (July 25, 2012). "MICKELE: Mickey Katz lives". Cleveland Jewish News.
  3. ^ "KATZ, MEYER MYRON – The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History". Case Western Reserve University. July 17, 1997.
  4. ^ Katz, Mickey (1977). Papa, play for me. Hannibal Coons, foreword by Joel Grey, introduction by Josh Kun. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. p. 105. ISBN 0-8195-6433-8. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
  5. ^ "The Muppet Show". Disney Plus. ITC Entertainment and Henson Associates. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  6. ^ Prideaux, Tom (August 23, 1968). "The Birth of Yankee Doodle Joel". Life. New York City. pp. 58–59.
  7. ^ Oldenburg, Chloe (1985). Leaps of Faith: History of the Cleveland Play House, 1915–85. Cleveland.
  8. ^ Teeman, Tim (July 18, 2018). "'Who the Hell Do I Think I Am?': Joel Grey on Coming Out, Cabaret, and His Yiddish 'Fiddler'". The Daily Beast.
  9. ^ "Joel Grey". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  10. ^ Zad, Martie (November 19, 1995). "Stars in Concert With Music of 'Oz'". The Washington Post. p. Y04.
  11. ^ a b "Joel Grey - Awards". IMDb.
  12. ^ "Cabaret (1972) - Awards". IMDb.
  13. ^ "Tony Facts and Trivia". Archived from the original on July 4, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  14. ^ Kowarsky, Gerry (August 5, 1992). "Joel Grey Is A Charismatic 'George M!'". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis, Missouri. p. 5F.
  15. ^ Carter, Bill (May 6, 1991). "So 'Dallas' is Finally Over. Or Is It?". The New York Times. New York City. p. C14. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  16. ^ "Resistance". IMDb. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  17. ^ a b "Joel Grey - Filmography". IMDb.
  18. ^ "Brothers & Sisters - Season 1, Episode 15: Love is Difficult". Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
  19. ^ "Grey's Anatomy - Season 6, Episode 9: New History". Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
  20. ^ "Law & Order: Criminal Intent - Season 2, Episode 16: Cuba Libre". Archived from the original on February 5, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
  21. ^ Jones, Kenneth (April 7, 2011). "Bon Voyage! Anything Goes, With Sutton Foster and Joel Grey, Opens on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew (February 23, 2011). "Normal Heart, with Joe Mantello, Ellen Barkin, John Benjamin Hickey, Will Play Broadway's Golden". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  23. ^ Brunner, Jeryl (December 23, 2019). "Joel Grey On Directing A Groundbreaking Fiddler On The Roof". Patch. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  24. ^ Joel Grey Looking Hard at Unexamined Things. Joel Grey Photographer.
  25. ^ Samelson, Judy (May 30, 2009). "SHELF LIFE: "American Theatre Reader," Photos by Joel Grey, New Looks at Bernstein and Horne". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  26. ^ Peter, Thomas (February 25, 2011). ""Joel Grey/A New York Life" Exhibition Will Open at Museum of the City of New York in April". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  27. ^ "The Billboard Papers by Joel Grey". Musée Magazine. September 19, 2013. Archived from the original on December 19, 2015.
  28. ^ McNeil, Liz (January 28, 2015). "Broadway Legend Joel Grey Opens Up About His Sexuality". People.
  29. ^ Bayard, Louis (February 3, 2016)."Joel Grey takes center stage in 'Master of Ceremonies'". The Washington Post.
  30. ^ "$10,000 Pyramid: Peggy Cass & Joel Grey". Archived from the original on October 20, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  31. ^ "The 45th Academy Awards (1973) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on July 17, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  32. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1973". BAFTA. 1973. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  33. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 1975 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  34. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 1979 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  35. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 1988 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  36. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 1997 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  37. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 2000 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  38. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 2011 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  39. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 2019 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  40. ^ "Joel Grey – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  41. ^ "Joel Grey". Grammy Awards. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  42. ^ "1972 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  43. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. December 19, 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  44. ^ "Joel Grey". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  45. ^ "1967 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  46. ^ "1969 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  47. ^ "1975 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  48. ^ "1979 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  49. ^ "2011 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  50. ^ Gioia, Michael (May 17, 2011). "Joel Grey, Reeve Carney, Rory O'Malley Are Givenik Ambassadors (Video)". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  51. ^ Purcell, Carey (June 7, 2013). "Joel Grey to Be Honored by National Yiddish Theatre June 10". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  52. ^ Gans, Andrew (December 5, 2016). "Bernadette Peters, Sutton Foster, Christine Ebersole, and More Honor Joel Grey December 5". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  53. ^ Nahmias, Omri (October 23, 2019). "Nikki Haley to be honored by World Jewish Congress". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved October 27, 2019.