One hot night
The Wild Party
Book, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Directed by Neal J. Freeman
The Gallery Players (www.galleryplayers.org)
Equity showcase (through
Review by Michael D. Jackson
In 2000, the unprecedented
occurrence of two musicals based on the same source material, a book length
poem titled, The Wild Party, by
Joseph Moncure March, opened in
The Wild Party
is unconventional in every way, breaking the tradition of the well made musical
established by Rodgers and Hammerstein. What plot exists tells the tale of an
unmarried vaudeville couple living in
Director Neal J. Freeman has given the show a rudimentary staging––sometimes even staging actors at a disadvantage. Set designer Hannah Shafran has given Freeman an open palette of a basic black box with a few adornments to help define a bedroom and a bathroom. Otherwise a single row of light bulbs suggest tawdry show business. Under such simple conditions lighting should become a chief instrument in the storytelling, but John Eckert’s light design is mainly serviceable. Summer Lee Jack’s costumes do the best at defining character and ambiance for the piece as a whole. Brian Swasey’s choreography turns out to be the star of the production, for it is inventive, slick, exuberant and executed sharply by the talented ensemble. Jeffrey Campos leads a jazz combo, which produces hot and sultry sounds, finalizing the character of a production that lacks definition in other areas.
As Burrs, Hack is strong in singing voice and appropriately slimy of character. Nicole Sterling as a long and tall Queenie looks spectacular in her flapper garb and sings with a clarion belt. Highlights of an overall strong ensemble are Zak Edwards as Oscar, who executes his character with manic energy and dances with an extra snap and panache. Tauren Hagans, as the lesbian Madelaine True, stops the show with “An Old-Fashioned Love Story.” Matthew Oaks, the other great dancer of the production, gets a chance to really show his talents in “Jackie’s Last Dance,” an unusually positioned solo dance number that is rather impressive.
The show is nothing less than odd and the production has not fully realized the potential of the script. However, the experience is worth it, for the young cast is outstanding and the musical numbers are exciting. The Wild Party is bound to remain a cult favorite and a welcome change from time to time as an alternative to the classic musicals that prevail in constant revivals.
Copyright 2008 by Michael D. Jackson
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