Michael John LaChiusa had two musicals open on Broadway during the 1999-2000 season, Marie Christine and The Wild Party. The most recent of the two, The Wild Party, centers on a chorine named Queenie and her live-in lover, Burrs. They decide to throw a wild party to add some spice to their lives. The guests start drinking and drugging, and an orgy ensues. Everyone changes partners, but eventually the couples reconcile, except for Queenie and Burrs.
Mr. LaChiusa's sophisticated and intricate, jazz-tinged score couldn't be more perfectly suited to the source material, the poem "The Wild Party" by Joseph Moncure March. There are wonderful character numbers ("Breezin' Through Another Day," "Eddie and Mae," and "Movin' Uptown"), musical scenes ("Wild Party," "Gin/Wild" and "Love Ain't Nothin'/Welcome to Her Party"), period pieces ("A Little Mmm," and "Marie is Tricky"), and some lovely ballads, ("People Like Us," "This is What It Is"). Although I didn't love The Wild Party as much as LaChiusa's first endeavor, Hello Again, whose score is more eclectic, featuring many different musical styles, I found this score much easier to listen to than his other season's entry, Marie Christine, which is much more dissonant and darker in tone. I think my problem with Wild Party is the difficulty in warming to the characters, each of whom seems more screwed up than the last.
Oscar nominee Toni Collette is cast as Queenie. Many people say that Collette is the biggest surprise on the disc and I agree. She has a lovely singing voice, but she is not the only one who surprised me. Brooke Sunny Moriber possesses a big voice which wasn't used to this extent when she played Iola Stover in Parade. I was very impressed with her vocal talents here.
Eartha Kitt should be declared a national treasure. She is perfection. I expected to hear Catwoman purring her way through these numbers and there was not one trace of that voice to be found. As Burrs, Queenie's lover, Mandy Patinkin often sounds as if he is auditioning to be the next Jekyll/Hyde. His numbers suit him perfectly since he can change his voice at the drop of a hat. He even gets to imitate some of the party guests in the number "Wouldn't it Be Nice?"
The rest of the incredibly talented cast gets their chance to shine too. The only one who doesn't seem to be up to speed with the rest of the cast is Yancy Arias. He seems to be sleepwalking through his numbers. It's a bit hard to understand why Queenie would fall in love with him.
While this show is not my cup of tea it's a very polished, professional score, and it makes an enjoyable disc. There is just enough dialogue included to inform the listener what is going on, though it would have been nice if a synopsis had been included with the disc. Mr. LaChiusa is a composer to keep an eye on though I have a feeling it will take a while for Broadway to fully embrace him.
'Til next time, happy listening!