One Big Song & Dance for Sex: THE WILD PARTY

Photograph: Earl Christie Photography

Photograph: Earl Christie Photography

Presented by Moonbox Productions
Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone
Music direction by Dan Rodriguez
Orchestration by Bruce Coughlin

Now – May 1, 2016
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
Boston, MA
Moonbox on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warning: underage rape, blackface, drinking, drugs, violence

(Boston, MA) Moonbox Production’s The Wild Party is a tight, gin-moist package of cruelty, casual racism and light kink. It’s a domestic violence fairy tale of grotesque proportions, and sexy as fuck. Everyone over the age of 18 should see it. The subject might be naughty but its methods are mesmerizing.

This musical is based on the Joseph Moncure March poem of the same name. It’s gorgeous and violent and worth a read on its own merits. “Queenie (Katie Anne Clark) was a blonde.” She’s a booze-happy dancer who lives with Burrs (Todd Yard) in a rat hole apartment in NYC. They’ve been good kids all week and decide to throw a party to end all parties because it beats examining their lives and confronting their issues. They invite an assortment of “friends” into their home for drunken debauchery. The party begins as a raucous celebration of fleeting joy and devolves into a moshpit of depraved batshittery.

Clark as Queenie is a revelation. Her talent is obvious from the get go but the real surprise lies in her stamina/energy conservation capabilities. Wild Party is two hours long without an intermission. Clark spends a majority of her stage time furiously dancing, singing, or both at once. These aren’t your Momma’s box step and sway dance moves. No, Clark is kicking her heels over her head and flinging herself across the stage in moves that look like physical appeasements to the gods. Did she do something to anger them? Maybe. Her ability to commit to her character while performing Bertone’s demanding choreography goes above and beyond exemplary performing. It’s a lesson for anyone with performing ambitions. This is how good you have to be to play with Moonbox. 

All of this fluff talk should not mislead my readers. Yes, Clark was very good as Queenie. It must be said that all of the leads are as solid as she is:
Todd Yard channeled Mandy Patinkin as Burrs during his calmer scenes. He channeled the Devil himself in his epic second act mad scene.
Carla Martinez is a firecracker who played as fast and loose as Clark. Performance-wise, Martinez is a great match. As actress, she proved an excellent foil to Queenie in her role as Kate.
Shana Dirik practically chewed the scenery straight off the stage as Dolores Montoya. Her voice is the love-child of Chita Rivera and Maria Callas. Regardless of what LaChiusa and Wolfe intended for their character with their script, Dirik’s still got it. However it is defined.

With the exception of some random mic-ing issues and some disembodied voices that don’t make sense within the context of the musical, this dirty glam musical about the disillusioned 1920’s lower-middle class in NYC is nigh impeccably designed and performed. It is overwhelming how good this production is. The Wild Party is operatic: it is mostly sung with minimal dialogue; requires great stamina from its performers; its passion and desperation are epic. I definitely had to remind myself that what I was seeing was live at least twice.

LaChiusa’s under-performed production should not be confused with the Andrew Lippa version – which just so happens to be playing at the Kresge Little Theater by MIT’s Musical Theatre Guild, now through April 30, 2016. I suggest seeing both to compare scores for the fun.

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