The Wild Party – Hear it Roar
A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS
Well, damn! Welcome back, Iron Crow! After a year-long hiatus, the company kicks off its 2016-2017 season with a big fucking orgy of a bang. Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party is epic, glorious, and sexy as shit. Lippa sets his piece in the 1920s, complete with a bathtub of gin, but the Crows have spiced things up a bit – everyone is draped in opulent corsets, heels, glitter, pasties, and skin, oh so much skin. They drink heavily, smoke indulgently, and snort coke off of each other all night long as lovers Queenie (Allison Bradbury) and Burrs (Justin Mazella) throw the soiree to end all jealous soirees. Party’s first form was a poem by Joseph Moncure March; it developed later into an Off Broadway hit. Director Sean Elias and musical director Ben Shaver have transformed this piece into a mass of creativity with a truly modern vibe – they show and don’t tell the Crow’s mandate of “what it means to live beyond the binary”. Every derivation of sexual act is explored before your very eyes. People coughed, cleared their throats, crossed and uncrossed their legs, got sucked in by the allure, the dazzle, and, uh, the sex. It’s the sex. This does, indeed, feel like a wild, wild, party.
Allison Bradbury’s Queenie, is a-fucking-mazing, and her bedazzled costumes, right down to the shoes, scream burlesque thanks to the costume stylings of Betty O’Hellno and Whisky Joy. Bradbury’s voice is clear, strong, melodic, and she does not miss a beat – worth the price of admission alone. From her entrance, “Queenie was a Blonde”, to her madcap struggle and denounement, it’s delightfully over the top. She is a diva, she owns that stage and she knows it. Not that Justin Mazella, playing Queenie’s main man Burrs, doesn’t holds his own against her, because he does. He’s forceful and brutish, with a voice that varies from grumbles to full range. Jessica Bennett’s Kate bursts through door with her heel kicking “Look At Me Now”, swinging her hips and slaying her own in those orange stilettos. Bennett’s voice is one that doesn’t even need the sound system, it booms through the auditorium just fine, thanks. Sylven Groomes Jr. is an understated actor, and he can certainly sing, but I didn’t connect with his Mr. Black, an outsider to the debauchery taken with Queenie, as much as the others. Perhaps it was a lack of chemistry with Bradbury? She and Mazella have that “it’s complicated” thing down pat, but I didn’t feel it with Queenie and Mr. Black. [According to the program Terrance Fleming, who plays the cavorting, shimmering, half-dressed Jackie, will get a shot at Mr. Black in the October 8th show. I kind of want to see him in that role see if I’m right and the connection is stronger. I might be back, bitches.]
The rest of the cast, in their holy-fucking-phenomenal costumes (did I mention the costumes?), add to the air of insanity. Jesse Marciniak as Eddie and Kathryn Daniels as Mae, his main squeeze, are a cute couple, especially in “Two of a Kind,” which is not listed in the program. Adam Cooley and Brice Guerriere kill in colorful victory rolled wigs; as they titter and lead the “Wild, Wild Party,” you won’t take your eyes off them. Valerie Holt, as Madelaine True, has the funniest song of the night with her stirring rendition of “An Old Fashioned (Lesbian) Love Story” complete with strip tease. Emily Small, Nick Fruit and Fred Feltcher-Jackson dutifully disrobe and accompany as any good ensemble should.
Shaver and Elias have a full band playing the score in the back of the room, which is great. The only problem with opening night was that there was a major issue with sound. Mazella’s first two songs were almost indistinguishable, and there were moments the cast kind of mumbled underneath Bennett. Hopefully they’ll fix that up as the run runs on. Choreography by Robert Mintz is a bit basic, with everyone kind of gyrating to the rhythm, but whatev, I don’t know how much dancing is realistic given those notes. I did enjoy the bit with the cast transforming into stairs and lifting Bennett up at shoulder height – “legs that drive men mad”, indeed. Set by Ryan Haase looks like Tim Burton had a hand in it, with purple draped cloth to resemble wood, slanted windows and beds, organs, and couches on wheels that flipped around at whim. Lighting design by Janine Vreatt is shadow-strewn and appropriately naughty.
BOTTOM LINE: Iron Crow kicks it into overdrive with this production of The Wild Party. Sexy as all get out, phenom performances, modern direction, come-hither costuming, man, it’s a fucking feast for the eyes and ears. Bring some friends, make it a party, and pack some extra panties. What can I say? It’s is the show to see in Baltimore right now and the Crows are the ones to beat. You’d be a fucking fool to miss it.
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