Theatre Review: “The Wild Party”
Andrew Lippa’s musical The Wild Party based on the narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March and directed by Jase Smith for Firehouse Theatre Project, is set in the roaring 20s and centers around a dysfunctional couple. Queenie, played by Grey Garrett, and Burrs, played by Terence Sullivan, attempt to liven up their stale relationship by throwing a fabulous party.
Queenie has become frightened by Burrs’ unpredictable and often volatile personality, but is hesitant to leave him. Queenie hopes that introducing some jealously into their relationship may shake things up and make Burrs want her as much as he did when they first got together.
As each party guest arrives they make a grand entrance; there are notables, Madeline “The Lesbian,” played by Carolyn Meade, also Kate, played by the fierce-as-ever Joy Marie Newsome, and her date Mr. Black, played by the elegant Josh Marin.
Lippa gets the party going with the rousing number “Raise the Roof,” and Queenie and Burrs spend the rest of the evening trying to get each other’s attention by flirting with their party guests. Kate tries to seduce Burrs who is too drunk/depressed to really notice, while Mr. Black shows an interest in Queenie, who seems to be equally as attracted. Everyone is having a great time until the action comes to a head with a tragic confrontation between Burrs and Mr. Black.
There are some amazing performances in this production. A highlight is Madeline’s “An Old-Fashioned Love Story” about her quest to find a lover, hilariously executed by Meade. Grey Garrett is absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking as Queenie. Garrett commands attention on stage showing Queenie’s tortured old soul quality in her every move. Even when she appears happy it’s clear in her facial expression she is covering up immense pain.
Joy Newsome is a force to be reckoned with, delivering powerful earth shaking vocals in “Look at Me Now” and providing a majority of the comic relief throughout the show with her expertly delivered one-liners. Sullivan is handsome as ever giving a powerful performance that is reminiscent of a Tennessee Williams character, projecting so much internal turmoil through a tough guy exterior.
The score is very well written however, it did start to feel a bit repetitive by Act II with several songs sounding almost indistinguishable from the others. The choreography is quintessential Starrene Foster. Edgy and dynamic, a bit ambitious for some of the actors, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.
Edwin Slipek Jr.’s set is impressive and makes excellent use of The Firehouse’ stage creating the illusion of separate rooms, which is highlighted by Andrew Bonniwell’s precise and perfectly time lighting design. The use of the vast set and lighting is this production guides the audience’s attention and focus so that you are never distracted by the additional party-goers in background.
“The Wild Party” is playing through December 28th at Firehouse Theatre Project.
www.firehousetheatre.org for information
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
“These are great roles for actors, so let me find the actors that can really bring these roles to life.”April 23, 2015
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