Chevron Theatre’s A Wilde Life is absolutely hypnotic, hinting at a time of debauchery and a glamour that has long since passed. Everything about this show is covered with a layer of sinfulness that is truly delightful in its elegance.
After his release from prison, Oscar Wilde (Jake Glantz) entertains the denizens of a jazz cafe in Paris and spins the tale of the loves in his life using the customers around him as characters in his story. A tale of nostalgia, the problems of living in the past and a lie at that, there is a darkness that hangs over the entire show that really transports us to the smoky salons of la Belle Époque.
This is a highly intelligent musical that oozes charm and sexuality, from the darkness of the various jazz melodies to the way that the costumes play around with tradition, which adds a hint of scandal to an already burlesque chorus. The black clothed figures are hypnotising as they perform songs like Careful, Darling or Make Him Pay that are full to the brim with heart and a touch of simmering anger and threat. In a salute that brings to mind musicals like Chicago, they reflect the morally grey not only in aesthetic but in the melodies of its songs. This show possesses a very strong score and every aspect is simply enrapturing. The only drawback in A Wilde Life is that between the occasional lack of diction and loud volume of the accompaniment, it is sometimes difficult to hear the cast, which is a shame since they are all incredibly strong performers in their own right.
Glantz’s performance as Wilde is entrancing. As he plays the puppet-master in a laid-back narcissist way, we do start to question how much of what we are seeing is real, spun from Wilde’s desire to be adored, or even fear of being alone. Despite the cavalier, even hubristic approach to his performance, it is hard not to feel for Glantz, especially during De Profundis, as his performance generates a sense of pathos and rawness that is very difficult to ignore and not be affected by.
There is very little that can be done to make this musical better than it already is. A Wilde Life is most certainly a must see show on the Fringe this year.