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Broadway composer, Andrew Lippa, returns to TheatreWorks where in 2004 he premiered A LITTLE PRINCESS, to present the American Premiere of his solo show THE LIFE OF THE PARTY. The composer’s other work includes the award-winning musicals, including THE WILD PARTY, The Addams Family, Big Fish, and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. The American premiere of THE LIFE OF THE PARTY, is now on stage at the Mt View Center for the performing arts through Sept 18th. Lippa has a twelve year history with TheatreWorks Artistic Director, Robert Kelley; they are truly family. Lippa was part of the New Works Festival and Kelley’s yearly Writers workshop. THE LIFE OF THE PARTY a celebration of the songs of Andrew Lippa had a sold out successful West End run. Conceived by David Babani this swank musical review fits TheatreWorks high standards of theatre productions.

The two and a half hours of Lippa’s work explores his past and new works including some songs that never made it to the stage. As with most composers his life is revealed through his music and this is certainly a dose of Lippa’s passion, heart and feelings. Joining Lippa on stage are three Broadway and West End vets Damian Humbley, Sally Ann Triplet, and from Wicked, Teal Wicks. TheatreWorks' Resident Musical Director, William Liberatore, is at the piano along with three string players Candace Guirao, Emily Onderdonk, Kris Yenney. The numbers alternate between singing, dancing, and his telling of each project or musical and a small intro to some of the songs. The four appear in well choreographed staging by the West ends Rebecca Howell, and full costumes by Morgan Large who also designed the sleek set that keys into each number. The creative shelves, panels with pictures and memories that are set to match his songs. The show is elegantly lit by Tim Lutkin and Director Babani brings the ensemble personality and takes us to the best cocktail party in Silicon Valley

The format of the songs and bits do not tell any story, this is not your standard Juke Box setup. Rather he sets up each set of songs from his past musicals or new works. Each session complete with costumes, wonderful dance and a perfect feel for the musical. In THE ADDAMS FAMILY - Gomez played by Lippa and Triplett as Morticia. Lippa’s BIG FISH is the first musical to get mention, and it is not one of his hits, yet seeing these songs restaged is impressive. Damian Humbley sings "Be the Hero" with his terrific voice and Lippa joins in with "The Alaskan Stomp" as the two take over the stage with a marvelous stomp. Humbley is then joined onstage by Teal Wicks for the haunting "Time Stops." The BIG FISH set ends with father and son singing the moving “Fight the Dragons”.

Lippa concludes the first act with his most popular musical THE ADDAMS FAMILY with the iconic cast: Gomez (Lippa), Morticia (Sally), daughter Wednesday (Wicks), and Uncle Fester (Humbley). "When You're an Addams" is the most energized I have seen of this song since seeing so many Bay Area regional companies stage this show. Humbley performs “The Moon and Me” as Uncle Fester. Lippa explains it was a random request to add the ukulele by one of the producers, as he accompanies Humbley on the tiny guitar. Triplett sings the lovely and very funny "Death Is Just Around the Corner" with the others joining her in a chorus line that kept the sold out crowd wanting more.

The second act features his classic THE WILD PARTY - and if this mosh of Lippa’s work can be the subtext for anything this would be it. TWP recently staged at both San Jose Stage Company and Ray of Light in San Francisco, this is my favorite Lippa work and these four truly bring a different light to this dark lovely musical. Teal Wicks is a hot sexy Kate in "The Life of the Party” and "Love Somebody Now" with a keen voice. Damian Humbley sets a likable evil for "Let Me Drown" as this THE WILD PARTY explodes on the Silicon Valley stage. Lippa makes sure to include songs that did not make the cut - including the BETTY BOOP musical that never saw a green light, “Spread a Little Joy” did make it into this Celebration. The highlight of the evening for me was Andrew’s performance of “You Are Here” from I AM HARVEY MILK a song that was commissioned by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Lippa is out shined by the pros he cast on stage for actors and singers, but his emotion and passion as Harvey Milk is tear inspiring. The sound design by Brendan Aanes is dynamic during this performance and brings Lippa’s voice into foolproof form to impress the audience. William Liberatore and his polished musical direction include some on stage time for him and it works well for him as an actor and singer.

“THE LIFE OF THE PARTY” is a perfect piano bar cocktail celebration that is sexy, brilliant and a must see. A handsome mashup of sophisticated and funny. Director David Babani teamed with Lippa to bring an excellent evening of Theatre. TheatreWorks continues to be the heart of new works and theatre in the Bay Area. Their season continues its 47th season October 5th with another original premiere of a comedy OUTSIDE MULLINGAR by John Patrick Shanley. (more details below)



The Life of the Party

Music & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa

Conceived and Directed by David Babani & Andrew Lippa

Featuring: Damain Humbley, Andrew Lippa, Sally Ann Triplett and Teal Wicks

Through September 18, 2016

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes, one intermission

Tickets: $19-$80; 650-463-1960.

Photos by Kevin Berne

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