Some love is fire: some love is rust:
But the fiercest, cleanest love is lust.
These lines are from the epic narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March titled The Wild Party. This poem, published in 1928 was widely banned for having very controversial material dealing with sex, drugs, and violence. Interestingly, this poem has inspired two very different musicals of the same name. The version by Michael John LaChiusa premiered on Broadway and stared such big names as Toni Collette, Mandy Patinkin, and Ertha Kitt. Yet the one by Andrew Lippa, which premiered off Broadway starred Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs. Both brought in big names, and both musicals revel in the kind of sexy, underground shock value that made Chicago the massive success it has become. Lucky for us, the Lippa version of this provocative musical is currently playing courtesy of Gravity Defied Theatre Company.
The Wild Party tells the story of two vaudeville performers, Queenie, a showgirl, and Burrs, a clown. On the outside, they appear to be the perfect match – both are attracted to sleaze and kink. However, Queenie soon tires of the physical brutality of Burrrs, and plans to throw a party so that she can embarrass him. A slew of rough and tumble characters fill the apartment as the party does indeed get wild, including Queenie’s friend Kate and her latest lover, the mysterious Mr. Black. The two couples find themselves in a tangled web of deception, violence, and sex, as the rest of the party guests continue to enjoy the bawdy party.
Directed by Danny Harrigan with musical direction by Ron Troester Gravity Defied’s production of The Wild Party is wild indeed, and a welcome addition to the current slew of summertime musicals. Definitely not for children or for the easily offended, this show is gutsy, bold, and fiercely entertaining. The Wild Party brings some impressive performances to the Aurora Fox stage. Erica Vlahinos takes on the role of Queenie in a ferocious and unapologetic performance. Her voice is strong, she moves beautifully, and carries this difficult role with a maturity beyond her young age.
Keith Rabin Jr as Burrs lacks the brutality and force that is expected, but he makes up for it in sheer commitment and performance strength. He brings a softer, more vulnerable side to Burrs that was a bit unexpected and actually quite endearing. Aaron Conklin’s Mr. Black is exactly right – sexy, suave, and charismatic, and Liz Bollar’s Kate is determined and strong, with a striking voice that fills the large theatre.
The entire ensemble is extraordinary, with some impressive dancing courtesy of choreographer Danny Harrigan. A few of the ensemble members truly stand out as well – Amy Osatinski is hilarious and vivacious as Mae and Erica Tristler’s Madeleine True is show stealing with her hilarious number “Lesbian Love Story.”
Technically, this show is quite strong as well. Set design by Keith Rabin Jr. transports you immediately to the roaring days of prohibition and wild parties, and the lighting design by Vanessa Janson is stunning, as perfect moments are captured with dark silhouettes and striking poses.
Gravity Defied Theatre Company deserves to be commended for taking on this difficult and gutsy musical. Even more importantly, they deserve to be commended for doing it so well. Certainly, do not take children or the easily offended to see this show, but if you are looking for something a bit different, something a bit racy, and something a bit shocking – then this is the show to see. You have just one more weekend left to catch it – so get your tickets now.
Gravity Defied Theatre Company Presents:
The Wild Party
At The Aurora Fox Theatre
Through August 22
CLICK HERE for tickets and details