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October 30, 2007

Tony-winning actress bids 'au revoir' to beloved Chester

CHESTER | Sitting in a chair with a lone pianist nearby, Tammy Grimes brushed a hand across her face to relocate a wisp of tousled hair. Then the music began.

It wasn't a scene from the legendary Broadway star's most recent cabaret act, but an intimate gathering in Chester's Congregational Baptist Church where Grimes' performed a swan song for the town as she readied to say goodbye.

As she began to sing "Rose of Washington Square," the familiar, deep vocals brought a touch of the spotlight to this small community, home to Grimes for many years.

Grimes' "A Farewell to Chester" cabaret concert was held Saturday to a filled sanctuary at the church. Friends, longtime neighbors, and community supporters gathered to hear the star sing and to witness a show that could very well have been the last one she would do in this town.

For Grimes, Chester has been her home in and amid her travels to perform in various cities and venues, and she will now be based in New York City.

Joel Vig, a well-known entertainer and the show's director, told the audience it was possibly a "historic occasion," since Grimes was trying out new material she would take on to New York for a new gig later this month.

"And she's been around Chester her whole life," Vig said. "Is this show her retirement? Probably just a 'return.'"

Noted columnist Rex Reed wrote of Grimes' one-woman show in New York, calling it a "rediscovery" of the famed entertainer, and said attending her show was "the best reason I can think of to stay out late."

Grimes' long history in Chester began as a small girl when she would spend summers in town with her grandfather, Dr. Loring Grimes, and lived in the circa 1753 Shackford home on Raymond Road. She once told the Derry News she loved spending time in Chester and most recently enjoyed gardening and the natural atmosphere near her Ledge Road home she shared with longtime life partner Richard Bell, an accomplished musician in his own right, who died in September 2005.

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