|The Wild Party|
|Original Cast Album|
|Music||Michael John LaChiusa|
|Lyrics||Michael John LaChiusa|
Michael John LaChiusa
|Basis||Joseph Moncure March's narrative poem The Wild Party|
The Wild Party is a musical with a book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe and music and lyrics by LaChiusa. It is based on the 1928 Joseph Moncure March narrative poem of the same name. The Broadway production coincidentally opened during the same theatrical season (1999-2000) as an off-Broadway musical with the same title and source material.
The show is presented as a series of vaudeville sketches, complete with signs announcing the next scene propped on an easel at the side of the stage. Its plot centers on a party - fueled by bathtub gin, cocaine, and uninhibited sexual behavior - hosted by Queenie and Burrs, whose relationship is disintegrating. It quickly evolves into an orgy that culminates in tragedy. The guests include fading star Dolores; Kate, Queenie's best friend and rival; Black, Kate's younger lover, who has his eye on Queenie; Jackie, a rich kid who has his eye on everyone, regardless of gender; the incestuous D'Armano brothers; a lesbian stripper Miss Madelaine True and her girlfriend Sally; underaged Lolita-like Nadine; and prizefighter Eddie and his wife Mae.
After 36 previews, The Wild Party opened at the Virginia Theatre on April 13, 2000 and closed on June 11 for a total of 68 performances. It was directed by Wolfe and choreographed by Joey McKneely. The cast included Toni Collette (making her Broadway debut) as Queenie, Mandy Patinkin as Burrs, and Yancey Arias as Black. Although her role was reduced over the course of workshop productions, Eartha Kitt, returning to Broadway after an absence of more than twenty years, garnered notice for her performance as Dolores. The four were backed by a large ensemble cast, all of whom had a featured song or other moments to shine within the context of the main plot.
In 2001, LaChiusa said that the role of Queenie was written for the African-American actress Vanessa L. Williams; when Williams got pregnant, she was recast with Collette. LaChiusa stated, "I don't think of it as something that was lost in the piece, but it would have been fascinating to see how an audience responded to a black Queenie. The show is all about the masks that we wear culturally and the removal of those masks over the course of the party. So it's all there...".
Ben Brantley of the New York Times called it "a parade of personalities in search of a missing party . . . what has wound up on the stage is a portrait of desperation that itself feels harshly, wantonly desperate." CurtainUp said, "Overall, it adds up to a polished theatrical entertainment, with a distinctive edginess," and Talkin' Broadway described it as " a dark, sensual, and glittering musical. LaChiusa has written several tuneful, witty, and character driven songs, which George C. Wolfe has expertly arranged and staged around the narrative provided by the source material; an interesting story gets told in appealing music and believable dialogue."
Promenade of Guests
After Midnight Dies
The Michael John LaChiusa and Andrew Lippa 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 poem, while the LaChiusa play, while also focusing on the love triangle, has fifteen characters, nearly all of whom are given story arcs of their own within the narrative. Within those individual stories, broader themes such as racism, sexism, bisexuality, anti-semitism, and the concept of the American Dream are included.
There are major differences in the music and tone of the two shows, as well. While Lippa takes a more abstract, non-date specific approach to his compositions and orchestrations, the LaChiusa score is both more traditional in terms of musical theatre conventions as well as more period with regard to the Roaring Twenties setting.