Kristina Miller ignites the stage as Queenie in Quentin Garzón’s passion-project intimate staging of the 2000 off-Broadway musical adaptation of Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 epic poem The Wild Party, one which Garzón and company have redubbed “Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party,” the better to distinguish it from the Michael John LaChiusa Wild Party that played on Broadway the same year.
Both musicals share the same basic plot, though most would probably agree that Lippa’s music proves catchier and more acceptable that LaChiusa’s.
Platinum blonde entertainer Queenie (Miller) and Burrs (Garzón), her abusive lover of seven years, decide to perk up their fizzling relationship by inviting all their friends to the wildest party in all New York.
Their eclectic coterie includes leggy lesbian Madelaine True (Alli Miller), pro boxer Eddie (Jacob Moore) and half-his-size girlfriend Mae (Kristin Towers-Rowles), mute dancer Jackie (Jamie Pierce), incestuous gay brothers Oscar and Phil D’Armano (Cory Robison and William Giuseppe Venturini), hooker Dolores (Emilia Sotelo), and underage nymphet Nadine (Jenessa Sahagun), along with theater producer Sam Himmelstein (John McGavin), scat-singer Max (Everjohn Feliciano), and a couple of nameless flappers (Reneé Cohen and Melody Ricketts) to add to the mix.
Things start out wild and get even wilder when a firecracker named Kate (Brittany Rodin) arrives with her latest flame, Black (Jacob Hoff), and when Black and Queenie hit it off, something not so pretty is going to hit the fan.
Though it’s Miller’s sizzling Queenie who proves the undisputed star of the show (she looks stunning, digs deep, and sings Lippa ballads like the gut-wrenching “How Did We Come To This” to powerful, poignant effect), several supporting players stand out.
As Black, Hoff’s GQ-ready looks make him a terrific choice to play a man who can turn Queenie’s world around simply by showing up at the party, and his deep sexy pipes seal the deal.
Miller’s statuesque vamp of a Madelaine True(ly) steals the show with the hilariously racy “An Old Fashioned Love Story,” Towers-Rowles’ blonde Betty Boop of a Mae defines triple-threat, Pierce shows off balletic grace in “Jackie’s Last Dance,” and Rodin has firecracker moments as Kate.
Doing double-duty as director/star, Garzón has come up with some imaginative staging on the matchbox Dorie stage as The Wild Party moves from the real to the surreal and back again. Still, an outside eye might have helped the velvet-voiced performer shape a rougher, more menacing Burrs.
Choreographer Steven Nielsen gives his cast plenty of high-energy dance moves to execute, and while not all ensemble members are as well cast as they’d be in a major production, they earn uniformly high marks for energy, commitment, and (in the show’s pansexual orgy sequence) daring.
The cast vocalize and harmonize to prerecorded tracks under Pablo Rossil’s assured musical direction, and though it’s a rarity these days to hear unamped voices (fortunately the Dorie has particularly good acoustics), the need to belt out to the stratosphere over the voices of an entire ensemble leads to some strained high notes, and the Dorie sound system doesn’t do T.J. Dawson’s tracks any favors.
A realistic set replicates Burrs and Queenie’s apartment (properties by Hallie Baran), and though a more abstract scenic design might have made for a more interesting artistic choice, Todd Kramer’s dramatic lighting design proves quite effective.
Melissa Pritchett has designed a period-perfect bevy of 1920s costumes and Byron Batista’s wigs are equally fine. Some makeup choices work, others less. Also, technical sound and lighting glitches need to be fixed so as not to mar both act’s climactic moments.
Raymond Jaramillo McLeod is assistant director. Benjamin Ginsberg, James Lent & Arthur Abadi are assistant musical directors. Micah Watterson is fight choreographer and chair choreography is by Allison Miller. Sound editing by Tim Hilliard and Cohen.
Hoff and Eric Bridges are stage managers.
Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party is produced by Art-In-Relation in association with Garzón. Jonah Sills is executive producer and Ray Buffer is co-producer.
The Dorie Theatre in THE COMPLEX, 6476 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood.
September 10, 2016
Photos: Daniel J. Sliwa