When director-choreographer Brian Rivell got the go-ahead to stage Andrew Lippa’s controversial musical THE WILD PARTY, he warned publicists that the show is “unlike any show you’ve seen on the Ritz Theatre Company stage.” This is true, but somehow it doesn’t seem all that wild except for the energetic singing and dancing. Perhaps the sometimes dim. sometimes lurid red lighting made it difficult for some audience members to see what was going on. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining.
The show is based on an epic poem by Joseph Moncure March about people on the artistic fringe of Manhattan society in the 1920s. Queenie (Martha Wasser, who starred as Elle in last season’s LEGALLY BLONDE) and her boyfriend Burrs (W. Kris Clayton) give a party, inviting a crowd of characters from their milieu. All dance and sing as if their lives depended on it–which, according to the director, they do in some ways. The festivities are temporarily interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious “Mr. Black” (Kyrus Keenan Westcott), perhaps an allegorical character. He tries to lure Queenie away from Burrs, and violence erupts.
The ensemble singing and dancing are almost nonstop, and have attracted some of the area’s finest vocalists and dancers. Wasser, as Queenie, is a true “belter’ with a voice that never gives up. Westcott adds a sinister tone to the atmosphere. The almost bare-bones set features hanging sheets (or are they curtains?) and a partly visible bathroom. The costumes effectively evoke the well-known style of the period. The excellent musical direction is by Brian Bacon. The music, though live, is heard but no seen. A five-piece band offstage is listed as a rock band, but effectively suggests music of the Jazz Age.
This show probably appeals mostly to a younger audience than this reviewer, but is definitely not for children. It is recommended for mature (but maybe not too mature) audiences.
THE WILD PARTY
Book, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
Directed and choreographed by Brian Rivell
Musical direction by Brian Bacon
Ritz Theatre Company
915 White Horse Pike
Haddon Township, NJ 08107