'Wild Party' could use some clarity in its lyrics
If you're going to tell your story in lyrics, make sure they're understandable. The broad outlines of Renegade Theater Company's "The Wild Party," which opened Thursday at Teatro Zuccone, are clear, but if the devil is in the details, the nuances...
If you're going to tell your story in lyrics, make sure they're understandable.
The broad outlines of Renegade Theater Company's "The Wild Party," which opened Thursday at Teatro Zuccone, are clear, but if the devil is in the details, the nuances of the story are provided by the chorus, which consistently blurred them.
Andrew Lippa, who wrote the script, lyrics and music, is primarily a composer and "The Wild Party" is nearly operatic in that it's almost continuous music. Based on a book-length 1928 poem by Joseph Moncure-March (banned in Boston as vulgar and obscene), it's a description of the decadent "No Limits. No boundaries. No Compromise" mentality of the United States in the Roaring 20s.
Queenie (Abby Hegerfeld) decides to humiliate her abusive partner, Burrs (Evan Kelly), at a party, but is sidetracked by her attraction to Black (Kaio Kealohapauole), brought to the event by Kate (Gracie Anderson), who hopes for just such an occurrence because she has her eye on Burrs herself.
Exactly how things evolve isn't clear because the choral parts lack the micrometric precision of those in "Parade," staged by Renegade last February and which involved, ironically, many members of the "Wild Party" cast, including Director Jenna Kase.
The solo numbers are more understandable, but most members of the cast are overtaxed by Lippa's complex and demanding score.
Exceptions are Kelly, whose "What Is It About Her" is searing in its agony, overwhelming in its power; Anderson's big, brassy "Look At Me Now"; and Caroline LePine's bell-like and hilarious "Old-Fashioned Love Story."
For the most part, Lippa's score is undistinguished, but there are sections with a juicy jazz or blues flavor, well-rendered by the orchestra, with exceptional trumpet work.
Lippa's emphasis on the music leaves little room for character development, but Kelly rises above it, his Burrs exuding menace and potential violence. LePine, too, creates a distinct personality as the openly predatory lesbian Madelaine True.
The choreography, also by director Kase, is never less than serviceable, and frequently much more -- a significant achievement with 15 actors in Zuccone's intimate space. The title tune, in particular, has a gratifying coherence of music, singing and choreography.
Kase and costume designer Sasha Howell have paid a gratifying degree of attention to detail, and the costumes are not only bright and colorful, but well-fitted and evocative of a time when a tuxedo was the only acceptable attire for men at a party.
While little of what was deemed "vulgar and obscene" in 1928 is particularly shocking nowadays, Kase has underplayed some of the script's raunchier aspects. But this production is still definitely for grownups only.
Paul Brissett is a Duluth writer and amateur actor who has appeared in numerous community theater productions.