Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


The Wild Party
Ray of Light Theater
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Eddie's review of Grey Matter, Patrick's review of Dancing at Lughnasa and Richard's reviews of The Last Five Years, The Diplomats, and Red Velvet


Jocelyn Pickett and Cast
Photo by Nick Otto
Ray of Light Theatre is putting on an outstanding production of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party. I saw both the Michael John LaChiusa version and the Lippa version in New York in 2000. This production is just a good as the Lippa Off-Broadway production. Both were derived from Joseph Moncure March's sleazy jazz age narrative poem about a bathtub gin-soaked party with Queenie and Burrs in the Roaring Twenties.

Queenie (Jocelyn Pickett) is a libidinous vaudeville dancer with a wandering eye, and her lover Burrs (Paul Grant Hovannes) is a temperamental and abusive clown. Also featured is Kate (Alexandra Feifers), an aged flapper who has the hots for Burrs, and Black (RaMond Thomas), who is attracted to Queenie. There are other fascinating and bizarre characters at the party including two brothers who are producers, Oscar (Zachariah Mohammed) and Bill (James Mayagoitia), actually in love sexually with each other; a huge and brawny prize fighter Eddie (Daniel Barrington Rubio); a diminutive and puckish girlfriend Mae (Lizzie O'Hara); and a lesbian named Madeline True (Kathryn Fox Hart) who is on the prowl for "fresh meat." All of this with a real bathtub, a romantic triangle, and even a loaded gun. It is an evening of skillfully controlled bedlam.

Andrew Lippa's score is scorching and jazz-inspired, with vaudeville-style tunes. It would be safe to say it's the composer's "pop opera." The stimulating choreography by Alex Rodriguez is exciting and has some of the best dance routines I have seen in ages—comparable to that found in a Broadway show. The direction by Jenn BeVard is skillfully energy driven and she keeps this cast of fourteen actors in relentless movement. The set design by Erik LaDue consists of a multi-level stage with rows and rows of liquor bottles lining the wall. The eight-piece band is on the second tier and is led by David Aaron Brown. They rock up a storm but wisely do not drown out the talented singers. Costumes by Sibilla Carini and Melissa Wortman consist of wild feathered, beaded outerwear that evoke the Roaring Twenties.

The entire cast is simplify incredible. Jocelyn Pickett as Queenie, Paul Grant Hovannes as Burrs, and Alexandra Feifers as Kate give exceptionally accomplished performances. Jocelyn Pickett has a strong, powerful voice and she belts out "Raise the Roof," "Maybe I Like It This Way," and "Who is This Man?". With his great vocal chops, Paul Grant Hovannes takes the clown figure to ridiculous, voracious, naive, and obnoxious extremes, while Alexandra Feifers is pitch perfect singing "Look at Me Now" and "Life of the Party." RaMond Thomas gives a first rate performance as Black and shines with his terrific vocal chops in "Of All the Luck" and "I'll Be Here."

Kathryn Fox Hart stops the show as the seducing lesbian Madeline True in "An Old-Fashioned Love Story" with a stimulating voice. Daniel Barrington Rubio and Lizzie O'Hara nicely sing "Two of a Kind." As the two sensual brothers, James Mayagoitia and Zachariah Mohammed reenact hilariously a perverse version of biblical stories in "A Wild, Wild Party." Malakani Severson has a solo spot late in the two hour plus musical where he dances Martha Graham style in "Jackie's Last Dance." He has a range from ballet to athletically modern steps to lithe leaps.

Bottom Line: Ray of Light's The Wild Party is a triumph.

Ray of Light Theatre's The Wild Party plays through June 11, 2016, at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street, San Francisco. Tickets and information available online at rayoflighttheatre.com/.


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