The Wild Party (Lippa musical)
|The Wild Party|
Original cast album
|Basis||Joseph Moncure March's narrative poem The Wild Party|
2004 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
2010 St. Louis
Based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 narrative poem of the same name, it coincidentally made its debut during the same theatre season (1999–2000) as a Broadway production with the same name and source material.
It’s the roaring 1920's and the beautiful, young Queenie, although she tries, cannot find a lover able to satisfy her desires – until she meets Burrs, a vaudevillian clown with a voracious appetite for women. Both Queen and Burrs have now met their emotional and sexual match ("Opening").
For a while, they live together happily sated. Eventually, however, the relationship sours. Burrs' violent nature, which once thrilled Queenie, now scares her ("The Apartment"). Still, she longs to generate the same excitement that brought them together. She suggests a party and Burrs agrees ("Out Of The Blue").The party begins with a parade of guests: Madeline the lesbian, Eddie the thug, Mae the dimwit, Jackie the dancer, lover-brothers d'Armondo, Dolores the hooker, and Nadine the minor ("What A Party"). Although Queenie radiates beauty and confidence, Burrs preys on other women. He makes his move on their youngest guest, Nadine. Despite her casual reprimand of his behavior, Queenie wants to hurt Burrs in return ("Raise The Roof").
The vivacious Kate arrives with her new friend, Mr. Black ("Look At Me Now"). Queenie, quite taken by Black, plans to make her move on him. Kate drags him away to meet the other guests. Queenie’s plans are momentarily undermined ("He Was Calm"). The party's revelry continues: Burrs hits on Kate; Madeline hits on Nadine, Eddie chugs beer and almost fights with Burrs. During the chaos, Black finds himself equally as taken by Queenie as she with him - much to the chagrin of Kate ("Poor Child"). As revenge, Kate plans on seducing Burrs. Meanwhile, in a corner of the room, Madeline is in a drunken stupor and on the prowl for a woman with very little success ("An Old-Fashioned Love Story").
Although Queenie is fully aware that Burrs will threaten her physically, she makes her move on Mr. Black, easily getting him to dance with her. Burrs watches them, his ire rising. Unsuccessfully, Kate tries to get Burrs to dance – then in order to diffuse the situation, Kate takes Queenie out of Mr. Black’s arms and dances with her instead.
Burrs' violent reaction against Mr. Black and Queenie is prohibited by the whole company dancing the Juggernaut ("The Juggernaut"). At its end, Mr. Black and Queenie are together again. To get the reaction he wants from Queenie, Burrs grabs Nadine, the minor, and makes out with her. This enrages Kate who throws Nadine to the ground by her hair. Madeline rushes to aid Nadine. Burrs cuts into Mr. Black and Queenie’s dancing. Managing to have her to himself, Burrs tells Queenie to stay away from Mr. Black. Laughing at him, Queenie says she will do whatever she chooses. He twists her arm. They are interrupted by Oscar and Phil at the piano. Burrs releases Queenie, seeing that too many people are watching.
Burrs and Queenie join Oscar and Phil's epic musical number based on the story of Adams and Eve – Burrs plays Adam and Queenie, Eve ("A Wild, Wild Party"). Their number is interrupted by a discontented neighbor. Eddie and Mae yell insults to the man and the crowd goes wild. The two celebrate their togetherness ("Two Of A Kind").
Suddenly, Mr. Black approaches Queenie and pointedly asks why she stays with an abusive brute. She reflects on her situation and comes to the conclusion that, perhaps, she has just learned to like the aggressive treatment ("Maybe I Like It This Way").
Elsewhere, Kate is attempting to seduce Burrs. He refuses her advances and expresses his deepest, darkest feelings for Queenie - she is driving him crazy ("What Is It About Her?"). Kate tries to kiss Burrs, but he pushes away. Black kisses Queenie. She embraces him.
The party rages on. Kate is alone and reflecting on her youthful indulgence ("The Life Of The Party").
Alone in the bathroom, Queenie is taking stock in her predicament. Although she's angry that she has confided in Black, a virtual stranger, she recognizes his goodness. This both stirs and confuses her feelings. Black enters the bathroom with a drink. The two share a moment as Black conveys his admiration for Queenie ("I'll Be Here"). Suddenly, Burrs comes in seeking Queenie's attention. He apologies for his behavior and asks her forgiveness. Before she can respond, Kate arrives. She unsuccessfully tries to draw Burrs back onto the dance floor. Both men pull for her affections and devotion -- Mr. Black asks Queenie to leave the apartment with him. Burrs asks her to stop the party and let them return to their isolation. Queenie is unable to respond to either man ("Listen To Me").
Frustrated and hurt, Burrs lashes out by physically threatening her. His outburst causes Queenie to leave the bathroom and Black quickly follows. It is clear that Burrs is quickly becoming desperate and depressed ("Let Me Drown"). Soon after, he begins to hallucinate and hear Queenie's voice in his head. Thinking Mae is Queenie, he mistakenly attacks her and angers Eddie. A fight ensues.
Mr. Black and Queenie return to find Eddie viciously beating Burrs. Queenie is afraid that Burrs will be killed if it is not stopped. Out of concern, Black rushes in and knocks Eddie unconscious with a chair. Mae tends to Eddie and Kate comes to the aid of a passed out Burrs.
Realizing all of the trouble he is causing, Mr. Black tells Queenie that he will leave. Queenie, however, cannot let him go and leads him into the bedroom. In a moment of passion, the two begin making love. The party guests follow suit in the living room ("Come With Me").
Early the next morning, the revelers lie asleep in the living room. Kate wakes Burrs who is beside her. Queenie is strikingly absent. Burrs, fearing the worst, staggers to the bedroom to find her in the bed with Black. When the two lovers wake, Queenie recoils in shock; Black jumps up and attempts to tackle Burrs but fails. Burrs moves to the dress and locates a gun. Full of rage, he vacillates between trying to force Queenie to make a choice between the two men. He threatens to kill Black and also threatens to kill himself ("Make Me Happy").
Black, who realizes that Burrs is about to make a decision, takes the chance and lunges at Burrs. The gun goes off. Burrs is dead. Fearing that Mr. Black will now be executed for the death, Queenie urges him to flee. Before leaving, Black professes his love for her ("Poor Child [Reprise]"). Queenie, now having lost both men, questions how things managed to reach that point of loss. She exits the apartment - with her coat - all eyes upon her sad, beautiful grace ("How Did We Come To This?").
Directed by Gabriel Barre and choreographed by Mark Dendy, the off-Broadway production opened on February 24, 2000 at the Manhattan Theatre Club and ran for 54 performances. It starred Julia Murney as Queenie, Brian d'Arcy James as Burrs, Idina Menzel as Kate, and Taye Diggs as Mr. Black. A cast album was released by RCA Records.
In 2004, The Wild Party was produced as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In recent years it has been staged in cities throughout the United States, including St. Louis, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Memphis, Valparaiso, Indiana, and Reno.
Houston's Bayou City Theatrics produced The Wild Party in July of 2013 to rave reviews. It starred Danica Dawn Johnston as Queenie, Colton Berry as Burrs, Erin Wasmund as Kate, and Jake Frank as Mr. Black. The production featured choreography by Luke Hamilton and musical direction by Jane Volke.
Ben Brantley of the New York Times said of Lippa's score, "[it] has a jittery, wandering quality, conscientiously shifting styles and tempos as if in search of a lost chord . . . The ballads . . . are of the high-decibel, swooning pop variety made popular by Frank Wildhorn. Mr. Lippa fares better with pastiches of jazz, vaudeville and gospel vintage, although these, too, suffer by comparison to the Kander-Ebb songs for Chicago." CurtainUp said, "The Wild Party may not be the perfect musical we've all been looking for but it's great fun to watch and puts enough talent on display to have warranted a longer run than it will have."
Awards and honors
The Wild Party won the 2000 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical of the 2000 season, Lucille Lortel Awards for Scenic, Costume, and Lighting Design, and the 1999-2000 Obie Award for Best Choreography. It was nominated for twelve additional Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding New Musical.
Comparison with LaChiusa's Wild Party
The Andrew Lippa and Michael John LaChiusa versions of The Wild Party are markedly different in their storylines. In Lippa's version, the plot is tightly focused on the central love triangle of Joseph Moncure March's original poem, and the cast is much smaller. Many of the characters in LaChiusa's version do not appear in Lippa's version at all.
There are major differences in the music and tone of the two shows, as well. Lippa's songs are not wholly dependent on the plot of the show and can be understood – better than LaChiusa's can be – out of context. Comparatively, the LaChiusa score is tightly interwoven with the plot of the show.
- Gans, Andrew (January 8, 2008). "Casting Complete for Gallery Players' The Wild Party". Playbill.com.
- Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party at the Music Theatre International website
- Lortel Archives entry
- New York Times review
- CurtainUp review