The Wild Party, 4 Stars

Paul Taylor-Mills presents
Michael John LaChiusa’s
THE WILD PARTY

With Frances Ruffelle as Queenie
Directed and Choreographed by Drew McOnie

At The Other Palace (formerly St. James Theatre)
From Saturday 11 February to Saturday 1 April 2017

DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER, Drew McOnie
DESIGNER, Soutra Gilmore
LIGHTING DESIGNER, Richard Howell
SOUND DESIGNER, Tony Gayle
ORIGINAL ORCHESTRATIONS, Bruce Coughlin
NEW ORCHESTRATIONS, Theo Jamieson
MUSICAL SUPERVISOR AND DIRECTOR, Theo Jamieson
COSTUME SUPERVISOR, Chris Cahill
PROPS SUPERVISOR, Lizzie Props Ltd
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR / CHOREOGRAPHER, Ebony Molina
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, Stuart Burrows
CASTING DIRECTOR, Will Burton CDG
MUSIC & LYRICS, Michael John LaChiusa
BOOK, Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
Photo Credit: Scott Rylander

Cast:
QUEENIE, Frances Ruffelle
BURRS, John Owen-Jones
JACKIE, Dex Lee
MISS MADELAINE TRUE, Tiffany Graves
SALLY, Melanie Bright
EDDIE MACKREL, Ako Mitchell
MAE, Lizzy Connolly
NADINE, Bronté Barbé
OSCAR D’ARMANO, Genesis Lynea
PHIL D’ARMANO, Gloria Obiyano
DOLORES MONTOYA, Donna McKechnie
GOLD, Sebastien Torkia
GOLDBERG, Steven Serlin
BLACK, Simon Thomas
KATE, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt

“Set against a backdrop of Manhattan decadence and 1920’s excess, The Wild Party tells the story of Queenie and Burrs, a Vaudeville showgirl and a Vaudeville clown whose relationship is marked by vicious behaviour and recklessness. In an attempt to salvage their toxic union, they decide to throw a party to end all parties. The guests are a vivid collection of the unruly and the undone: a cocaine-sniffing bisexual playboy; a washed-up boxer; a diva of indeterminate age; a fresh-faced ingénue; and a handsome Valentino who catches Queenie’s roving eye. The jazz and gin soaked party rages to a mounting sense of threat, as artifice and illusion are stripped away. But when midnight debauchery turns into tragedy, the revellers must sober up and face reality. After all, no party lasts forever.

Frances Ruffelle will play Queenie. Frances is perhaps best known for originating the role of Eponine in Les Misérables in the West End and on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for her performance. Her many other stage roles include Dinah in the original company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express (West End), Roxie Hart in Chicago (West End), Frastrada in Pippin (Menier Chocolate Factory) and the title role in Piaf (Leicester Curve). Frances has recorded four solo albums and performed her solo shows at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the Garrick Theatre, the Crazy Coqs and New York’s 54 Below”.

Review by theDecadantDesigner:
John Owen-Jones (Burrs) oozed passion and charisma. Mixed with vocal clarity and power this made for another incredible performance to add to his flawless resume. Another special mention must go to Melanie Bright (Sally) who had one of the strongest female voices in the show and totally owned her character. Drew McOnie’s  was exceptional choreography made not brilliant material into a vibrant piece of theatre.

And now for some musings on the technical elements of the show. A large percentage of the lighting rig was made up of intelligent fixtures some spot and some wash.. The generic rig was mainly made up of source fours, used to provide side light which was the main full stage wash. Three moving heads provided back light and break up gobo’s, present almost all the way through the show. As far as I could tell there was only one light positioned on the FOH bar rather than overhead. This was a moving head spot used solely to create cabaret style, sharp follow spot for moments when “Burrs” breaks out into his vaudeville act type numbers. This rig was used by lighting designer, Richard Howell to create a consistent and effective lighting design which had an almost cinematic feel in places. Using light to highlight where a camera would’ve cut to a tight shot. Howell also used icy blue gels mixed with warm tungsten gels to create a grayscale effect on stage which helped to transport the audience back to the vaudeville era. Howell and designer Soutra Gilmour clearly worked closely together on the design. One example of this was on a arch of squirrel cage bulbs, pixel mapped, and used to create wonderful chase effects. This was the same with the block of pars rigged under the band platform. Used as blinders but also to create some more detailed blinder effects.

Another stand out element to this show were the gorgeous 1920’s costumes. Crushed velvet, sequins, leather brogues, feathers, flappers, bedazzled fascinators and plenty of plaid filled the stage with colour and texture.

Gilmore has created a picturesque set with a puzzle of stairs and enough suggestion of a vaudeville proscenium arch  to whisk the audience of to when needed. One of my favourite elements of the set was the bath which actually contained water. I’m not sure how happy the front row were as the performers splashed around in it but from the safety of row D it created some beautiful pictures and helped illustrate the struggle of the dark moments in act two.

So now I bet you are wondering why this review is 4 stars and not 5. Unfortunately the sound design really failed to impress. This shocked me as I thought sound designer, Tony Gayle’s previous work on LAZARUS at Kings Cross was brilliant. Sadly for most of the show I found myself straining to hear the performers over the fantastic (but alas too loud) band. This is a good show, with a nice jazz backing and a great scenic, costume and lighting design but I havehave seen better from this creative team.

Review by TheDecadentDesigner

SATURDAY 11 FEBRUARY – SATURDAY 1 APRIL 2017

THE OTHER PALACE
12 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5JA
Performances: Monday – Saturday 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm (no matinee 11 or 16 Feb)
Tickets: £10/£30/£45/£55/£65 (Previews £5-55)

Box Office: 0844 264 2121 | www.theotherpalace.co.uk

About The Other Palace

Formerly the St. James Theatre, The Other Palace will officially open its doors in February 2017, and will be a home and breeding ground for musicals at various stages of development.  The Other Palace will focus on four key areas: programming, creative use of spaces, musical theatre development and audience engagement.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has united with Joe and Margaux Sharratt, the husband and wife team who shot to fame in the restaurant world in 2015 with their Brixton hotspot, Naughty Piglets, which was awarded four star reviews from the Evening Standard and Time Out. The Other Palace will house The Other Naughty Piglet, a fun modern restaurant serving fresh, seasonal and creative small plates, combined with an extensive choice of natural wines.

The main theatre will be the heart of The Other Palace, where the programme will consist of full productions, work in progress productions and festivals of new work. By day the studio will be available for composers, librettists, lyricists, directors and choreographers to discover and create new material. By night the space will build on the current St. James Studio model to offer a diverse programme including cabaret, music, musical theatre and crossover acts. A series of unique platforming opportunities for musical theatre in development will also be introduced in the studio; further details will be announced in due course. The theatre will feature an open mic bar in the hope that it becomes a genuine hub for anyone interested in the musical.

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