From beginning to end, The Wild Party is phenomenal. Allison Arkell Stockman’s rendition of Andrew Lippa’s critically acclaimed musical, at Constellation Theatre through October 29, is truly a wild party.
Set in the roaring 1920s in Manhattan, the play follows the roller coaster of lovers Queenie and Burrs’ emotions during a party in their apartment, set to jazz, vaudeville and gospel. The cast’s vocals are certainly the meat of this musical sandwich, leaving you mesmerized and under a spell.
At the performance I attended, audiences were holding onto their seats, as if the energy emanating from the stage might force them to their feet in a perfectly spontaneous dance. It was too fun and exciting of a time to keep one’s jaw hinged. All were awestruck, as the lights flickered, dancers leapt into the air and “liquor” drenched the floor.
One number that stood out to me was “Two of a Kind,” performed by Emily Zickler as Mae and Calvin Malone as Eddie. The duo’s chemistry was spot on, and they were definitely going home or to a bar next door after the show to cause more mayhem. The pair, along with the rest of the talented cast, made this production entirely convincing. However, let’s not forget the stunning costumes designed by Erik Teague; the garments donned by the cast were vibrant, entrancing onlookers.
Now to the main characters of this timeless tale of love, and the dire consequences of failing to end a romantic situation before pursuing another. Queenie, Burrs, Kate and Black do an effective job of conveying the intricate details causing jealousy and lust to surface, sending this “rager” to its inevitable, deadly end.
The two leads, Farrell Parker (Queenie) and Jimmy Mavrikes (Burrs), lack the intense sexual chemistry that propels the “two vaudeville performers in[to] a sexually potent but tumultuous relationship.” While there are sexual innuendos aplenty, making this is a perfect show for adults who appreciate the occasional crass sexual reference, the sensual desires between the two go unrealized outside of the words forced from their lips.
Despite the lack of physical chemistry, their musical and comedic talents shine through. Parker is hot! She sizzles as she lightly makes suggestive racy glances toward the audience, and motions sensually across the seemingly 12-foot-wide stage. Her voice often rings above the live band, illustrating her yearning for fresh love. Mavrikes’ portrayal of a drunken clown manages to foster empathy for an otherwise loathsome character. His comedic timing is refreshing, and his vocal range is both impressive and enduring. The two shine independently, but as a romantic duo, I’m not convinced.
Now the desire between Kate and Burrs was too real, as Kari Ginsburg (Kate) enticed audiences with her suggestive demeanor and powerful vocals. She was a delightful and hysterical addition to this much-appreciated ensemble. Black and Queenie also had a few steamy encounters that made you question their relationship once lights faded to black. The alluring lower register sung by Ian Anthony Coleman (Black) pulsated throughout the intimate theater, bringing chills and goosebumps to everyone’s skin.
It was an emotional ride, prompting laughs, claps and an unshakable desire to dance. Yes, there were rare moments when the band drowned out the singers, and a few sex scenes were more comical than genuine. However, this show provides a fine evening activity for couples and friends looking to be entertained and wowed.
The Wild Party runs through October 29 at Constellation Theatre. Tickets are $25-$55.
Constellation Theatre: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; 202-204-7800; www.constellationtheatre.org