Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: FEBRUARY 12, 2010
Okay, dust off your spats and your flapper fringe. You are cordially invited to a “Wild Party.” Come as you are; everyone else will. Um, let’s see, the guest list includes a showgirl, a clown, a strongman, a hooker, a lesbian, a mute dancer and a couple of incestuous brothers.
There may be Prohibition outside, but here, the liquor is flowing, the guests are gyrating and there’s enough titillation for any taste. Leave your grandma at home – unless she’s a hottie .
“The Wild Party,” based on a 1928 Jazz Age narrative poem, is all about sleaze, sex, kink, revenge, love and violence. Something for everyone, in other words. At first, the writer, former New Yorker magazine editor Joseph Moncure March, couldn’t find a publisher. When he finally did, his poem was banned in Boston . Needless to say, it was a huge success with the public.
Wildly enough, there have been two musicals based on the same cynical poetic source. And both debuted in New York in the same year. This one, created by Andrew Lippa , garnered the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off Broadway Musical of 2000.
The show has never been produced in San Diego — except, amazingly, at Torrey Pines High School in 2004. Now, an equally unlikely venue rises to the considerable challenge: Coronado Playhouse, a small, community theater in a conservative neighborhood. Both productions left the drugs out of the debauched revelry, but the risky, delightfully risqué Coronado production oozes sex – and it’s terrifically seductive – orgiastic, if not orgasmic.
You probably wouldn’t want to actually be at this party – these are serious boozers and losers – but they sure are fun to watch.
At the center is a love triangle. No, make that a square. Queenie , the vaudeville dancer, is getting tired of Burrs, her depressive, abusive clown. So she throws this party in the hope of humiliating him, or making him jealous. In walks raunchy Kate, a barely reformed prostitute who’s supposed to be Queenie’s best friend, but who really has her eye on Burrs. Kate is escorted by the mysterious Mr. Black, who’s immediately drawn to Queenie , and vice versa.
As you can imagine, events take a dark, dangerous turn. You probably don’t need to be told that unabashed seduction, unchecked vengeance and unbridled decadence can have dire consequences.
But you can’t ignore the irresistible attractions of this rambunctious and infectious production, under the robust direction by David Kelso: excellent voices singing a compelling jazz/blues/gospel-infused score; outstanding choreography, well executed by a talented, strikingly costumed cast of 15; a killer 7-piece band – and all the bumps, grinds and wacky couplings you could ever want.
So… you busy this weekend? Come on – get down, get dirty, get funky. Come to this wild “Wild Party.”
“The Wild Party” continues through March 6 at the Coronado Playhouse.
©2010 PAT LAUNER