THE ROARING TWENTIES, DANCE ORGY, AND QUEENIE TAKE OVER THE STAGE IN SAN JOSE, AND WE ARE INVITED TO THIS POUNDING PARTY
Noel Anthony* (Burrs) and Allison F. Rich* (Queenie) star in San Jose Stage Company’s production of THE WILD PARTY,
I was emerged in "The Party" a couple of weeks ago at Ray of Lights sexy production. But this past weekend I went to THE WILD PARTY a second time, now at San Jose Stage Company through July 17th. I was thoroughly pounded a second time with the added delight of experiencing the power of THE PARTY as if I am there at the Bar with the cast. This production wraps up the very successful 33rd season of SJSC. The design of the intimate San Jose Stage Company thrust theatre, all their productions emerge their audiences into their plays and musicals, from the Addams Family living room to RFK’s office. Artistic Director of SJSC Randall King says “The party illustrates the excess and indulgence that was unsustainable and false. The decade ended with the crash of the stock market and collapse of many banks igniting the Great Depression, bringing the roaring ‘20s to a devastating and tragic halt.” This production has no-limits and no-compromises, it emerges you into the deep into the dark side of current times based on a 1928 poem by New Yorker editor, John Moncure March, Andrew Lippa’s sexy powerful musical is a wild party that is a savage ride.
Noel Anthony* (Burrs) with (l to r) Noelani Neal (The Dancer), Allison Parker (Mae), Brittney Monroe (The Minor), Theresa Anne Swain (Madelaine True)
THE WILD PARTY was first staged at Off Broadway’s Manhattan Theatre Club in 2000. Writer composer Andrew Lippa’s book, words and music are deep and blue, and of course bring on some “Cabaret”, “Chicago,”and “Three Penny Opera” memories, but this is more horror story and clown act. Highly sexual and truly “Wild”. Directed by David Davalos he has pulled together a first rate 14 member cast. All have great voices that fill the San Jose venue, but as depraved as these friends are, many of them are difficult to like. But as our star Queenie played by the exquisite award winning SJSC regular Allison F. Rich, sings “Out of The Blue” you fall for her lure and in “Raise The Roof” the company takes you over and you are “in” for this ride. The full-length Joseph Moncure March poem is a sharp read and brings us into the pre-Depression era celebrating that impending doom. Sex, drugs, and alcohol step off of each page of this story, between Queenie and the tragic clown Burrs. Noel Anthony is perfect as the dark clown, menacing his red clown nose in his lips like satin eating his apple. Anthony is passionate in “What About Her” with Allison’s powerful sexy voice.
Allison F. Rich* (Queenie), (l to r) Keith Pinto* (Oscar D'Armano), Joshua Hollister* (Sam, The Producer) Jake Mahler (Phil D’Armano) and Nathaniel Rothrock on the ground (Max)
Lippa knows just how to push the envelope and the SJSC production spins his music wonderfully, for the most part this is an operetta and most all done in song. The intense experience is just as powerful as the ROLT production that closed in SF last month. The pounding rhythms are relentless and the production numbers are a clear view of the outrageous flapping 20’s. Choreographed by the Blankenship team, Brett and CJ, their creation is reminiscent of URINETOWN, a bit of everything from gospel to burlesque, part Jerome Robbins, with a touch of Fossie and 50’s grindhouse movies. A lot of male faces smiling and digging into the laps of the female cast, and toppless beautiful men. The music under the direction of the exquisite Lauren Bevilacqua with her eight member on stage orchestra built deep into the bar. Michael Palumbo clever deco 20’s set, will remind you of a boxing ring cage we are all locked in, then at times we are certain it is a huge jail cell. How do we escape Burr’s wrath. This vaudeville and live poem is so dangerous it reminded me of Brecht at his sardonic best.
Carmichael Blankenship* (Mr. Black) and Allison F. Rich* (Queenie)
Rich’s Harlow inspired party girl Queenie who likes her men rough. Anthony’s take on Burrs is more vaudeville and attempts to give his girl what she wants. The third in the relationship arrives, and his name is Black, superbly sang and performed by CJ Blankenship, his operatic chops are impressive and his timing with Rich is important to this Party.
THE WILD PARTY, with its luscious addicts and whores, is not a handsome picture of the 1920s. What director Davalos has created with the operetta is a work of arduous power. You are in its thread. Bevilacqua musical direction is thrilling, and her music pools into the colorful lighting design that fills the aisles and the depth of the small space also created by set designer Palumbo. The company handles the Blankenships dancing like mobsters and artists. The classic erotic gang bang orgy “Come With Me” is beautiful and the Fellini subtext is foolproof. The solo dance “Jackie’s Last Dance” by Party member Jackie played by the sizzling Noelani Neal, is spectacular and as elegant as any dark moment at this Party. Mike Birr and Allison Parker play Eddie and Mae the boxer and doll, and their “Two of a Kind” duet is one the brighter moments of the Party.
Allison F. Rich* (Queenie) and Noel Anthony* (Burrs)
Courtney Hatcher as the upfront Kate is a guest at the party who falls for the clown, Burrs and see's her as sassy. Hatcher sings “Look at me Now” with a standout voice. Hatcher is electric in the second-act opener, “The Life of the Party,” which begins as Kate realizes she is in a bathtub. Blankenship as Black has two charismatic solo’s “Of All The Luck: and “I’ll Be Here” and is the highlight of this already brilliant company. Madeline true is played by local favorite Theresa Ann Swain, she has an enduring solo with “An Old-Fashioned Love Story.” The appealing “A” list ensemble also includes the awesome Brittney Monroe as Nadine, and the sexy Joshua Hollister as guest Sam. Adrienne Herro will break your heart as Dolores, and builds Davalos direction to perfection. Guest, Oscar, is played by the SJSC favorite Keith Pinto. Phil and Max also along for the drinks and drama are played well by Nathaniel Rothrock and Jake Mahler. The detailed costumes by Abra Berman for everyone are the cat’s claws and Roaring 20’s classic with the men dapper and clean. Queenie is mostly in a white slips and gowns and wonderful lingerie for the orgy number. The music filled the black box space, the strong voices from the cast worked well with John Koss sound design.
Courtney Hatcher*(Kate) and Noel Anthony (Burrs)
The threesome have a keen realized solo near the close of the two hour story “Make Me Happy” Rich, Blankenship, and Anthony bring the Party to an end and the love triangle between Queenie, Burrs, and Black with Kate looking on. The gripping dimensions that make them part of a time, a way of life, and a sad indifference for the lives outside their party. The play is engaging, scandalized, and sexy and resembles today’s times and our current politics and culture, truly a must see! The SJSC announced their 34th season and you can get that information at the links below. This company celebrated one of their most successful seasons this past year. The Company was honored with the Best Play Death of a Salesman from Silicon Valley Theatre Awards, Outstanding Musical at TBA’s for Addams Family, and won seven Bay Area Critics Circle Awards.
San Jose Stage Company
THE WILD PARTY
Book Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Based on poem by Joseph Moncure March
Directed by David Davalos, Music Director Lauren Bevilacaqa
Choreographers Brett and Carmichael CJ Blankenship
Through July 17th 2016
The Stage in San Jose
490 South 1st Street San Jose Ca
2 hours and 15 minutes
Tickets at www.thestage.org/
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sjstage/?fref=ts
Photo’s by Dave Lepori / San Jose Stage