THE WILD PARTY on the BWU Musical Theater Program

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THE WILD PARTY – BW’s musical theater program achieves levels of excellence that far exceed those of the students

Roy Berko
(Member, American Theater Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

The Wild Party is a musical by Andrew Lippa, based on Joseph Moncure’s 1928 narrative poem of the same name March.

The Wild Party is a musical by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe based on the same poem. The poem caused a sensation. It was considered so lascivious that it was banned in many places when it was published in 1928. Despite the avoidance, the poem was a success. Ironically, the only success of March’s writing career.

To add to the confusion, both versions of The Wild Party opened during the 1999-2000 season, one on Broadway (the LaChiusa/Wolfe creation), the other off-Broadway (the Lippa concept).

The versions differ in format, but still contain the same story of decadence, bathtub gin, uninhibited sexual behavior and people who engender little reason to be loved. The LaChiusa/Wolfe version is presented as a series of vaudeville acts. Each segment is introduced by signs with titles indicating which “act” will be performed. The Lippa version is a more conventional theatrical story with a beginning, middle, and end.

The Lippa version is now staged by Baldwin Wallace’s nationally recognized musical theater program.

According to the writer, the story is “about the masks that we culturally wear and the removal of those masks during the party. [life]. Unfortunately, the characters have no reason to be loved. They lead unproductive, rudderless lives with seemingly no redeeming qualities. They are self-centered to the point that we really don’t care what happens to them. There are no “good guys” to cheer on, no protagonists, only antagonists.

Victoria Bussert, the play’s BW program queen, says in Director’s Welcome, “THE WILD PARTY is one of those true gems of the musical theater catalog – a show full of wildly eccentric characters set in the roaring 1920s with an extraordinary jazz score.” (The score is dynamically played by Matthew Webb’s well-tuned jazz band, suspended above the heads of the audience..)

She goes on to say, “Jeff [Hermann] and I decided to recreate the space [that we had develop for our 2009 edition of THE WILD PARTY at BW] but added more opportunities for an immersive experience.” The stage design is a track that is placed between segments of the audience seated on both sides of a long, narrow stage, which creates no emotional space between actors and spectators .(The effect is electric.)

Another change from the 2009 production was to use a slice of the LaChiusa/Wolfe version of the script and have the protagonists perform their vaudeville act. (A wonderful opportunity to give student actors a chance to develop the usual acting experiences of student actors.)

Bussert continues, “THE WILD PARTY is filled with dance, so choreographers Greg Daniels and Lauren Tidmore spent many hours creating totally original numbers filled with 1920s physical abandon.” (These are some of the most sultry, sloppy dances you’ll ever see on stage..)

Featuring costume designer Charlotte Yetman, plenty of skin-exposing sequin-encrusted garments that leave no room for cross-dressing, gym-cut, gender-transitional/transitioning, awesome-toned bodies.

The overall effect is that everyone is invited to a wild and wild party!

The story centers on Queenie, a well-known party girl and purveyor of gin and tub drugs, and her relationship with Burrs, a “clown” with a violent streak.

They live a decadent lifestyle which, according to March, was how the “in” crowd of Hollywood lived during the 1920s, the era of prohibition, speakeasies, uninhibited sex, orgies, eccentricity, acceptance of various sexual lifestyles and wild parties. (Obviously, the attendees can’t be evangelical prudes, because the events will have that crowd running quickly for the doors.)

During one of the evenings, Mr. Black, a well-dressed, handsome, suave, apparently wealthy and impeccably mannered man, appears. Queenie falls in love with him and incites Burrs to a jealous rage, with a tragic outcome.

(Note: BW doubles its shows so students can have as many educational experiences as possible. Comments here are for the cast of Queenie which includes the talented Queenie (Mia Soriano), her equally talented playmate Burrs (Ricky Moyer), Mr. Black (Praise Oranika) and the sensational Kate (Alexa Lopez). Others in this assemblage are Bella Serrano, Jaedynn Latter, Eileen Brady, Noah Wohlsen, Mack Hubbard, Trey Milcowitz, Noah Rodriques, Zach Mackiewicz and Kate Day Magocsi.

Special shoutout to Trevor Gill-Snow for his sensational dance rendition of “Jackie’s Last Dance.”

JUDGMENT CAPSULE: If watching decadence is your thing, you’ll be excited by The Wild Party. If you prefer to be in the presence of characters who have redeeming values ​​to feel empathy, this will not be your show. The singers, actors, dancers and musicians are top notch. They achieve levels of excellence that far exceed those of college students. But, what else can you expect? They are part of the respected and often revered program of the Baldwin Wallace Musical Theatre. Cheer!

(Additional note: THE WILD PARTY ends the costume design career at BW of the brilliant and multi-award winning Charlotte Yetman. She and her costumes will be remembered for a long time!!!)

THE WILD PARTY runs until November 19. For tickets https://www.bw.edu/events/theatre-dance/

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