One Wild Party

This blog post is by Chelsey McLaughlin, a senior theatre major.

Photo by Stan Barouh

In its most dazzling production of the season, the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies’ take on Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party shimmered and sparkled. The fusion of song and dance created by theatre professor Scot Rese and dance professor Alvin Mayes transported audiences to Queenie’s Bootleg Bar in all of its 1920s grandeur.  Adapted from a 1928 poem written by Joseph Moncure March, this musical chronicles the fun, excess and turmoil that accompany the roaring twenties.     

The cabaret style set gave the effortless jazzy club atmosphere—complete with a live band and full-service bar.  The authentic touches of prohibition posters, antique-framed photographs and whisky crates offset the twinkling crystal chandeliers. Everywhere you looked, there were signs of the times.

Upon entering the bar, I was escorted to my seat by a Queenie’s staff member, and it was from there that I entered the immersive, dark and dazzling world of the wild party.  Seated up front, I was surrounded by the song, dance and drama that played out between Queenie, Burrs, Kate and Mr. Black. The relationship between these four characters fueled the tale of jealousy and domestic violence that spurred many passionate love decrees and swanky ensemble numbers.  Delivering their lines around, and at times to audience members, I found myself part of the action. To my right, the handsome Mr. Black professed his love for Queenie. To my left, his date, starlet Kate had her eyes on Burrs scheming madly from behind the bar.  From behind rushed a gaggle of lively friends to the lovers—all passing the night away under the care of a lively piano and bold high-hat. 

The color scheme was red— the color of lust, anger, passion. These emotions were reinforced by the hazy red lights that quietly hummed overhead. Under the dim glow of the jewel-trimmed satin lamp shades, Queenie sat down at our table and introduced herself.

It was from this close vantage point that I noticed the elegant touches in costume.  Golden Marilyn Monroe curls and a bold ruby red lip were the perfect contrast to her glittering white and silver dress.  Elegant suits and period appropriate coats, hats and slacks were present for the men.  For the women, finger waves and t-strap heels finished off their elegant looks of silk, satin and netted lace.

Behind the band was a mural of the Garden of Eden.  With the numerous references to the biblical story of original sin, the themes of wrath, violence and disobedience hitched a ride on the chords of this feisty, fantastic tale.