Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Tale of Two Parties

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Tale of Two Parties

Article excerpt

Off-Broadway throws a sizzling bash, but the Great While Way delivers a theatrical hangover

New York theater has witnessed a most peculiar horse race this season between two different musical adaptations of The Wild Party, Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem about sex, drugs, and violent passion among bohemian show folk. First out of the gate was Manhattan Theatre Club's version by Andrew Lippa, best-known for the tiny off-Broadway musical john and jen and writing additional material for last year's Broadway revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Coming along right behind it was the Public Theater's version (staged at the Virginia Theatre), which was cooked up by composer Michael John LaChiusa (whose Marie Christine, starring Audra McDonald, was produced last fall at Lincoln Center Theater) and writer-director George C. Wolfe (who won Tony awards for staging Angels in America and Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk). Wolfe's version, which the Public Theater opened directly on Broadway with commercial producers, snared three major stars: Mandy Patinkin, Eartha Kitt, and Toni Collette (of Muriel's Wedding and The Sixth Sense).

Given their pedigrees, which one would you pick as a winner? Well, that's what makes horse racing exciting. LaChiusa and Wolfe's version turned out to be a numbing nightmare of wasted talent, while Lippa's unleashed an entire squadron of fresh new stars in the making.

"Queenie was a blonde, and her age stood still / And she danced twice a day in vaudeville." The opening lines of March's poem introduce its central character, a showgirl shacked up with a clown named Burrs, whose rough treatment seems to suit her. The two throw a party for their extended social circle, which includes a big lesbian named Madelaine True, a couple of gay songwriters, and a bisexual dancer named Jackie. Queenie's friend Kate shows up with a handsome gigolo named Black, who locks eyes with Queenie in a mutual attraction that turns deadly before the drunken, orgiastic night is through. …

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