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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


The Wild Party

Also see Johns review of Venus in Fur

The Wild Party

The Outre Theatre Company opens its inaugural season with the musical The Wild Party featuring book, lyrics, and music by Andrew Lippa. The musical is based on a narrative poem of the same name written by Joseph Moncure March in 1928. Like the poem, the musical tells the tale of two vaudeville performers named Queenie and Burrs who live a decadent life of indulgence. They decide to have one of their parties complete with the couple's eclectic mix of eccentric and self-absorbed friends. Fueled by passion, regret, drugs and alcohol, the party unfolds into a night they will long remember.

The original production of The Wild Party opened Off-Broadway on February 24, 2000, at the Manhattan Theatre Club where it ran for 54 performances. The production received the 2000 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical, Lucille Lortel Awards for Scenic, Costume, and Lighting Design, and the Obie Award for Best choreography. Interestingly, there was also another musical called The Wild Party, based on the same poem, that opened on Broadway that same year at the Virginia Theatre. That production, written by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe, is markedly different than the one written by Lippa in tone and musical style.

Queenie (Sabrina Gore), a beautiful showgirl, and Burrs (Tom Anello), a vaudeville clown, appear to be the perfect match. Though originally drawn together by sleaze and kink, they find their waning passion replaced by boredom and jealousy after a couple of years. When Queenie grows weary of Burrs' physical brutality toward her she decides to extract her revenge by publicly embarrassing him. She convinces him to throw a party at their slightly seedy Manhattan apartment for all of their friends. The guest list is a motley crew that includes prizefighter Eddie (Mickey Jaiven) and his wife Mae (Courtney Poston); a hooker named Dolores (Kaitlyn O'Neill); her lesbian madam named Madelaine (Sharyn Peoples); a gay couple/brother act, the d'Armano brothers (Alvaro D'Amico and Giordan Diaz); and a mute dancer named Jackie (Ben Solmor). Queenie's long time friend and rival Kate (Christina Groom) arrives with handsome boyfriend-du jour named Mr. Black (Mark Brown-Rodriguez). It is obvious that Queenie and Mr. Black are immediately attracted to one another. Queenie sees no problem in luring him away from Kate—a drug addict and semi-reformed ex-prostitute—and seducing him in order to humiliate Burrs. Queenie and Burrs' "wild party" continues to spiral out of control as passions mount, inhibitions are lowered, and reality is blurred.

Beyond a doubt, Sabrina Gore owns the role of Queenie. She is vulnerable and vengeful at the same time, while exuding a simmering sensuality. She weaves her way emotionally through her songs, taking care to put as much intensity in the tender moments as well as the passionate ones. Tom Anello is less on the mark as Burrs. He carries himself with shoulders slumped forward and eyes cast a bit downward. While this might make someone more physically imposing look menacing, it doesn't quite work for him. Though they work well together, his subtext is just not clearly readable. Mark Brown-Rodriguez as Mr. Black seems a bit inexperienced as an actor up against Gore. While he offers a lovely version of "I'll Be Here," he tends to gloss over some of his vocal runs without always distinctly hitting each individual note. Sharyn Peoples is delicious as Madelaine in "An Old-Fashioned Love Story." Christina Groom as Kate shines in the songs "Look at Me Now" and "Life of the Party," as well as the scenes in the second act in which she deteriorates from cocaine use. Mickey Jaiven is likeable as Eddie and Courtney Poston is an adorably perky Mae.

Scenic design by Sean McClelland is masterfully rendered. It is a dimly lit, worn and faded 1920s apartment. Its jagged windows overhead make a lasting visual impression. Costuming by Angelina Esposito is remarkably detailed. The incidental music fits the time period perfectly, and a live nine-piece band playz the music well, though overpowering the singers at times.

Andrew Lippa's score is unusually hard to sing in the sense that it often provides little assistance to the singers in securing their vocal entrances and melody line. That said, the cast does a fine job in performing it. There is just a bit of unevenness in their ability as soloists and in maintaining blend on some of the fuller harmony moments. The sound on the night attended regrettably dampened the performance. As it was lacking in both clarity and balance with the band, some of the lyrics were lost, and interfered with the ability of the singers to pull back in the more emotional moments and still be heard. It appeared that actress Kristina Groom had a microphone that was off for the entire show.

The show's direction and choreography are married in a way that is rarely achieved. The dancing, whether languorous or energetic, evolves from the moment rather than looking presentational and planned. Every scene is impeccably staged to the last detail. Regardless of where the center of attention is during the party, every single person on stage is engaged in a story with another character, always developing the moment, always fleshing out their own character. If the handling of The Wild Party is indicative of what lies ahead for Outre Theatre, they indeed have a bright future.

This Outre Theatre production of The Wild Party will be appearing through December 9, 2012, at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center Studio Theatre. The Studio Theatre is located at 201 Plaza Real, at the south end of Mizner Park, in Boca Raton, Florida (the former site of the International Museum of Cartoon Art). Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 5:00 pm.. For tickets and information you may call them at 954-300-2149 or reach them online at outretheatrecompany.com.

The Outre Theatre Company began in 2011. They are an emerging professional theatre company hiring local Equity, and non-Equity actors and actresses. Their vision is to be a theatre that nurtures the creative spirit of individuals and the community, through original and established works, utilizing a variety of mediums to engage the souls and imaginations of the artists and the audience. Their mission is to create theatre which stimulates thought, provokes reflection, and encourages activism.

Cast:
Queenie: Sabrina Gore
Burrs: Tom Anello*
Kate: Christina Groom
Black: Mark Brown-Rodriguez
Madelaine: Sharyn Peoples
Eddie: Mickey Jaiven
Mae: Courtney Poston
Max: Luis E. Mora
Phil: Alvaro D'Amico
Oscar: Giordan Diaz
Dolores: Kaitlyn O'Neill
Sam: Trent Stephens
Nadine: Emilie Paap
Jackie: Ben Solmor
Kegs: Julia Rodriguez-Buis

Crew:
Director: Skye Whitcomb
Musical Director: Kristen Long
Choreographer: Michelle Petrucci
Scenic Design: Sean McClelland
Lighting Design: Devon Garbus
Sound Design: David Hart
Costume Design: Angelina Esposito
Stage Manager: Nori Tecosky

*Indicates member of Actors' Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers.


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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