A DUAL CRITICS PLAYERS BY THE SEA THEATRE REVIEW
Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party opened on April 26th, 2019, at Players by the Sea opened. It runs through May 18th. The theatre is located at 106 6th Street North in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. For reservations call 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org.
The play, with book, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (who wrote music and lyrics for The Addams Family) offers a trip back to the 1920s, the days of flappers, jazz, illegal hooch, and reckless disregard for societal conventions.
The original story, a book-length poem, was written in 1926 by Joseph Moncure March, who previously worked as the managing editor of The New Yorker. The story was considered too hot to publish until 1928. Distribution was banned in Boston. Lippa’s musical debuted in 2000 in a limited off-Broadway production. His version incorporates substantial portions of March’s work.
The first act is truly a wild party, thanks to remarkable direction by Lee Hamby, Co-Director and Choreographer Niki Stokes, and nineteen dedicated talented actors. Amy Hancock’s costumes captured the era, when women were free for perhaps the first time in Western history to wear knee-length dresses. Add the fantastic lighting of Daniel Dungan to Ian Black’s imaginative set and you’re in for a wild time at the party.
March describes the two leading characters in explosive rhyme: “Queenie was a blonde, and her age stood still – And she danced twice a day in vaudeville.” She “lived at present with a man named Burrs – Whose act came on just after hers – A clown. Of renown. Three-sheeted all over town.”
Raquel Lopez Clory, a JU graduate with a marvelous voice who has toured with a professional Broadway Theatre group, appears as Queenie; she has the commanding presence needed for the role. Josh Waller, also a JU graduate and one of the founders of the 5 & Dime Theatre Company, appears as Burrs. He is an extraordinary singer and actor who has appeared in many productions on our local stages, and does a marvelous job portraying the brutish clown.
After a morning quarrel, the couple agrees that it would be a great idea to throw a big party for their many friends. A party featuring, among other things, bathtub booze, cocaine, gangster friends, and guests of all sexual persuasions mingling in search of good times shared with a partner.
Queenie’s best friend is Kate, portrayed by Ilana Gould, who grew up on the local stages, has a sensational voice, and was recently in ABET’s The Robber Bridegroom and Limelight’s Heathers. Kate arrives at the party with Black, an attractive gigolo with a winning air, portrayed by Theodore R. Candy, a Douglas Anderson graduate, who studied vocal jazz performance at Berkeley College of Music, and has a great singing voice.
The remaining cast members are always on stage, with non-stop dancing and singing. One of the favorite songs appreciated by the male half of Dual Critics was the funny and well-sung “Old Fashioned (Lesbian) Love Song” by Madelaine, portrayed by Dawn Veree. Veree is new to the local theatre scene; she previously appeared as Masha in Vanya and Sonia . . . at Flagler Playhouse.
Others in this incredible cast were Chris Berry (Eddie), Joanna Yeakel (Mae), Caitlin Charrier (Nadine), Rachel Ihasz (Jackie), Brandon Kraut (Sam), Jordan Stinson (Oscar), Kimberly Cooper York (Delores), Jacob Pickering (Phil), and Cole Marshall (Max). The ensemble included Jack Niemczyk, Samantha Wicklund, Christian Savin, Summergrace Grable, and Kate McManus.
The second act is much shorter than the first and more melodramatic. Burrs is attracted to Kate while Queenie is attracted to Black. Things do not go well.
The excellent band hidden away backstage included Erin Barnes (Keyboard 1), Andrew Phoenix (Keyboard 2), Josh Johnian (Guitar), Austin Routten (Winds), Austin Sparks (Trumpet), and Baldwin Ruffino (Drums).
Others on the Creative Team were Cathy Dooley (Music Director), Jackie Jantzen (Stage Manager), Jereme Raickett (Production Manager), Katie Dawson (Scenic Charge Artist), Baron Tetzlaff (Scenic Construction), Caitlin Charrier (Fight Choreographer), and Rachel Ihasz (Dance Captain).
If you’re planning to see Wild Party on a Friday or Saturday, and are at least 21 years old, you can purchase a ticket for CLUB MANIFEST, a production in the Studio Theatre which begins at 7:00 pm and lasts for an hour. The club was designed by Anna Kolodzieski. Admission includes a hot piano and a cast with Amy Hancock, Matt Barnes, and Andrew Phoenix, directed by Suzanne Hudson-Smith, to entertain you, bar bites, spirit tasting, and a reserved seat for the main stage production.
Kudos go to Players for staging this ambitious large-cast production for the first time in our theatre community – we found it an immersive experience.