by MICHAEL JOHN LaCHIUSA
AN UNEXCITING PARTY
The Broadway season of 1999/2000 will always be remembered as the one where two new musicals had the same title and the same subject, Joseph Moncure March's poem THE WILD PARTY. I didn't have a chance to see the Off-Broadway production with a score by Andrew Lippa, but I managed to see the one by LaChiusa. I doubt if one day I'll be able to compare both shows, but the one I saw was kind of a disappointment.
Many years ago I saw the movie adaptation of the same poem where Raquel Welch played Queenie, of which I remembered the feeling of a real wild party. Imagine my surprise when I saw this rather boring party.
George C. Wolfe's dark and unglamorous staging is perfect as a decadent image of the crazy's 20s, but there's no excitement on stage. The show runs under a slow rhythm that's broken once in a while with hysterical laughs or screams. The most strange thing about it is the fact that it seems to run for a long time (being boring as a result) and at the same time everything happens so quickly on stage that we have the feeling that we missed something.
A CAPABLE CAST
The characters are interesting but never came fully alive, exception for Queenie, and it was hard for me to sympathise with any of them. It's like every one of them have something to tell but don't have enough time to say it. Fortunately the cast is made of solid actors who try their best to keep us interested and to whom was given the chance to have a solo number. Although we have Broadway stars in the cast, it's Toni Collete who, here in her Broadway debut, brings life to this party. She's terrific as the blonde Queenie and just to see her is reason enough to see the show. She is like a lively butterfly that only wants to have fun not seeing the danger ahead. As her lover, Mandy Patinkin is completely overacting and hardly convincing. Good old Eartha Kitt shows, as Dolores, that she's still in great shape, stopping the show with her two songs.
A SCORE BY LAcHIUSA
Michael John LaChiusa is a very talented guy who not only writes the music but also the lyrics and the book of his shows. Probably he is the only contemporary Broadway composer lucky enough to have two new musicals opening in the same season (that both shows failed at the box-office is probably a sign that the public is tired of dark/serious musicals).
Taking inspiration from the great composers of the 20s, he wrote his most accessible score to date and in the process gave us a few hummable tunes like "Uptown", "A Little Mmm", "Taking Care of the Ladies" and the title song.
That the score sounds better on CD than on stage is proof that somehow along the way someone loose track of this WILD PARTY. Anyway this isn't a bad party, but it should have been wilder and livelier.
Kudisch * Jane Summerhays * Tonya Pinkins * Yancey Arias * Norm Lewis
Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
Directed by George C. Wolfe
Rated by Jorge: ++