Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe's Wild Party, which opened last night at the Virginia Theatre, confirms every dark suspicion harbored deep in the American subconscious of New York City as a den of depravity, home to debauched and violent emotional and sexual predators who, when not corrupting the innocent, celebrate their vile and evil ways in fashionable orgies which take place in suitably chic bohemian enclaves.
Actually, at the time Joseph Moncure March wrote the poem on which this musical is based, that was more or less the truth. And it's a reputation that has persisted, in one form or another, to this very day. The dark underbelly of the big city always has and continues to fascinate us. We know in our hearts that this is the real soul of the city, and that the whole "clean and wholesome Times Square" thing is nothing more than a myth perpetrated to attract unwary tourists.
The Wild Party is 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.
Visually the production is stunning. Robin Wagner's set, Toni-Leslie James' costumes, and Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer's lighting design all come together in what can only be called a great chiaroscuro work of art.
Mandy Patinkin gives a startling and risky performance as the psychotic, homicidal Burrs. Eartha Kitt is - wonderfully - Eartha Kitt and can do no wrong as the experienced survivor Dolores. Toni Collette, though she seems to be channeling Marilyn Monroe at several points during the evening, manages a touching and ultimately vulnerable Queenie.
It's the uniform stellar quality of the large supporting cast that is the secret and the strength of this Wild Party. Every single character on the stage is fully realized, with Marc Kudisch, Leah Hocking, Jane Summerhays, Nathan Lee Graham, Michael McElroy, and Norm Lewis giving performances which anywhere else would steal the show.
With The Wild Party, LaChiusa and Wolfe have proved that the good, old-fashioned book musical form is still vibrant and very much alive. Bravo!
The Wild Party Music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa. Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe. Directed by George C. Wolfe. Choreography by Joey McKneely. Featuring Yancey Arias, Toni Collette, Nathan Lee Graham, Adam Grupper, Leah Hocking, Eartha Kitt, Marc Kudisch, Norm Lewis, Michael McElroy, Brooke Sunny Moriber, Sally Murphy, Mandy Patinkin, Tonya Perkins, Jane Summerhays, Stuart Zagnit. Scenic design by Robin Wagner. Costume design by Toni-Leslie James. Lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. Sound design by Tony Meola.
Theatre: Virginia Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Running time: 2 hours with no intermission
Schedule: Monday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM
Audience: May be inappropriate for ages 15 and younger. Children under 4 are not permitted into the theatre.
Ticket prices: $84, $64 and $49 (Wednesday Matinee $74, $54 and $39) A $1 Theatre Restoration charge will be added to the price of each ticket.
Standing Room: $25 Standing Room tickets are sold at the Box Office the day of the performance only, and only if the performance is sold out.
Tickets online: TeleCharge
Tickets by phone: TeleCharge at (212) 239-6200, or outside the New York metro area (800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM
Tickets by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets by Snail mail: The Wild Party, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998