The roaring 20’s incited a wildness that could not be contained—and it is celebrated today with productions such as Encores! Off Center’s The Wild Party. Equipped with an incredible score, Lippa’s The Wild Party brought me into the inner conflicts of abuse and the outer celebration of freedom.
Wild Party’s revival was directed by Leigh Silverman, who capitalized on an all-star cast’s talent to bring a captivating production of the musical to New York City Center’s stage. Scenic Designer Donyale Werle brought the 20’s to the 00’s with a unit set—perfectly showcasing musical director Chris Fenwick’s orchestra.
Costume designer Clint Ramos’ swanky selection emulated the time period with a unique artistic flair, especially when coupled with Sonya Tayeh’s choreography. Mark Bartons’ lighting design pulled the audience in; while Leon Rothenberg’s sound design made sure that no note went unnoticed. With subtleties managed, Queenie began a performance that had a roaring support from the first downbeat.
Sutton Foster (Queenie) brought a world of confusion, delight and the consequences of indecision to life on the Encores! stage. Foster’s powerful performance made the theater into an extension of the wild party ensuing.
Steven Pasquale personified the negative characteristics of strength in his portrayal of Burrs. He carried the rising insanity with him, ushering in the lows of un-contained emotion with masterful precision.
The life of the party was Joaquina Kalukango, whose rendition of Kate enticed the audience to its feet. Kalukango, like her cast-mates, is a do not miss.
Certainly matching her performance was Brandon Victor Dixon (Black). Harnessing superb chemistry with Foster, Dixon pushed humanity back into Queenie’s reality and an opposing force into Burrs’. Dixon had me out of my seat.
The dynamic duo of Eddie and Mae was played by Ryan Andes and Talene Monahon. Andes’ musical Stallone-esque performance was accentuated by Monahon’s lyrical innocence. All the while, everyone’s favorite lesbian Madelaine True (Miriam Shor) had the audience doubled over from her first line.
The supporting cast, Renée Albulario (Nadine), James Brown III (the Neighbor), Rachel De Benedet (Dolores), Raymond J. Lee (Max), Clifton Oliver (Oscar d’Armano), Charlie Pollock (Sam/The Cop) and Britton Smith (Phil d’Armano), brought life to every note. They did not fall behind the stacked lead roles, rather, they pulled an even stronger performance from them. The ensemble (Penelope Armstead-Williams, Kenita R. Miller, Sydney Morton, Ryan Steele and Samantha Sturm) was no different.
This unforgettable cast harnessed every high expectation; and with this pool of talent, it would be a surprise if there was any portion of the performance that was lacking. A night filled with laughter is seldom forgettable.
Review By: Alexandra Lipari
Photos By: Joan Marcus