Young Theatre hosts a sexy and cliche ‘Wild Party’

In Art, Arts & Entertainment, Reviews, Theater & Arts
The cast of Andrew Lippa's "Wild Party," as well as the production, is energetic. However, the characters in the play lack believability and the story often collapses under its own cliche weight. (Courtesy of the Department for Theatre and Dance)

Somewhere in between “Chicago” and “The Great Gatsby” lies the vibrant themes and catchy tunes of Tony-nominated producer Andrew Lippa’s “Wild Party.”

Directed by Jeremy Lewis, this production is a fun and sexy throwback to love and fidelity during the Prohibition era. Lippa penned the book, music and lyrics for the show.

The production is exciting and full of movement. However, its only faults are the believable of its characters.

In the heat of 1920s Manhattan, long-term lovers Queenie and Burrs are losing the passion they once had for each other, which leads to Burrs assaulting Queenie in the bedroom. In an ill-conceived revenge plot, Queenie throws a party with the intention of hurting Burrs, which gets complicated when an unfamiliar face shows up.

The musical itself could be described as “Chicago’s” ugly stepsister (especially after hearing the “All That Jazz” reference in the first act). The women are voluptuous and sexually liberated; the men are either dashing juggernauts or sweaty brutes.

The story is one that seems to collapse under its own cliche weight, leaving behind unresolved plot layers. However, Lewis’ production in Cal State Fullerton’s Young Theatre fills in the cracks with dazzling spectacle and an overarching visual theme of sexuality.

The culture of the Roaring ‘20s as depicted in “Wild Party” is certainly one of a sexual revolution. Characters drink, flirt, and are unashamed and unabashed.

Monique Chelsy Burias Magpayo expresses these characteristics more than anyone else on stage in her performance as Madelaine True, an out and outspoken lesbian. There is not a dull moment as long as Magpayo is on stage as the charismatic female drunkard looking for love.

The quality use of the ensemble knows no bounds in this production. Watching closely, there is a story being told through these characters of just how wild the titular party can get.

As the main story unfolds, the partygoers are tirelessly swinging (in more ways than one). Glasses are raised and layers are shed as the night divulges in a frenzy of hedonistic merriment.

Complementing the ensemble’s efforts is the sensual lighting design, consisting of just about every shade of red imaginable. The set design blends elements of a 1920s urban cityscape with decadent furnishing.

Characters seem to slither on and off stage through the production’s choreography by William F. Lett. Movements tend to be slow and seductive and then jump into fast-paced swing-dance routines. The pole-dancing routines and the impressive aerial silk act definitely deserve a nod.

What the story of “Wild Party” lacks in originality, the cast makes up for in energy and talent. Whether it be sexual or comedic, every corner of the stage holds something interesting going on, and the show’s complex harmonies are hit with perfection.

However, the shortcomings do lie with the production’s acting, which at times, lacked in commitment and uniqueness. For instance, the authenticity of the characters and the effect of their reckless drinking was not fully convincing in Lewis’ production.

Despite this, highlights from the show definitely include vocal performances from Hannah Clair and Cody Bianchi who play Queenie and Burrs, respectively, and Christopher Mosley as Mr. Black. The harmonies these performers create are simply perfect.

If nothing else, “Wild Party” is exactly that: a wild party. It wears its themes of sexual promiscuity on its sleeve and holds nothing back as the night reaches its inevitable end.

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