The Wild Party

Set in 1920s New York, The Wild Party features sequins, flapper dresses, ample helpings of debauchery and seemingly hundreds of those wide champagne glasses that nobody can actually drink out of. The premise is pretty much covered in the title: There is a party, and it is wild. The characters sing the praises of gin, sin, and skin, and we see a lot of all three.

The show looks beautiful. The costumes are lavish and glitzy, and the staging is theatrical

The score is a smouldering jazz soundtrack played live on stage by a band who are kept busy throughout. Their work is perfectly complimented by Drew McOnie’s choreography. The dance numbers in the show range from the entertaining to the downright dark, with everything perfectly pitched to compliment a variety of musical influences. Songs noticeably outnumber dialogue which is probably no bad thing. The songs are witty in places, and emotional in others, although none are particularly memorable.

Gloria Obianyo and Genesis Lynea give standout performances as the D’Armano brothers. Their smooth-moving, possibly-incestuous double act is a real highlight. The decision to cast women in these originally-male roles saves the show from seeming overly stereotypical in its cast of characters.

The show looks beautiful. The costumes are lavish and glitzy, and the staging is theatrical – as well it should be for a show about a group of performers. The set is kept sparse to give the performers room to do their thing, but there’s just enough there to evoke the walk-up apartment of an indebted past-her-peak vaudeville performer. There’s even a bathtub, which is used just enough to avoid it seeming unnecessary, but those in the first couple of rows should be aware that they might be hit by a few drops of bathtub gin. Let’s be honest, though, there are worse things to be hit by.

The production stumbles in its plot, or lack thereof. Just over half of the show is devoted to introducing the characters. Admittedly, there are a lot of them, but The Wild Party manages to make it all the way to the interval without anything actually happening. We’re given tantalising hints at storylines, but none of them come to fruition in any satisfying way. By the time the show reaches its Act Two climax the whole thing feels underdeveloped simply because there is no build-up to it.

That being said, the ultimate goal of any show should be to transport you to another time and place, and that definitely happens. The Wild Party is a feast for the eyes, even if it isn’t much of one for the brain. Now, does anybody else fancy a G&T?

Reviews by Nicola Masters

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The Blurb

Michael John LaChiusa’s The Wild Party will be the inaugural production at The Other Palace, which opens in February as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest addition to The Really Useful Theatres Group and a dedicated home for new musical theatre.

Set against a backdrop of Manhattan decadence and 1920's excess, The Wild Party tells the story of Queenie and Burrs, a Vaudeville showgirl and a Vaudeville clown who decide to throw a party to end all parties. Based on Joseph Moncure March’s narrative poem of the same title, which was widely banned when it was first published, The Wild Party originally played on Broadway in 2000 and now receives its first major London production.

The Wild Party is directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, who received the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer for his work on In The Heights (King’s Cross Theatre). Other recent work includes Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) and Bugsy Malone (Lyric Hammersmith).

The cast of 15 is led by Frances Ruffelle, who originated the role of Eponine in Les Misérables, winning a Tony Award for her performance. The cast also features John Owen-Jones (Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera), Simon Thomas (Legally Blonde), Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie (A Chorus Line on Broadway), Dex Lee (The Scottsboro Boys), Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (In The Heights) and Ako Mitchell (Ragtime).

The Wild Party is produced by Paul Taylor-Mills, who was recently appointed the new Artistic Director of The Other Palace. Paul has recently produced In The Heights (King’s Cross Theatre), The Last Five Years (St. James Theatre) and Side Show (Southwark Playhouse).