From the moment the curtains open on NRACT’s production of “Wild Party,” directed by Craig Johnson, it’s obvious that all the stops have been pulled out. During the huge-scale opening number, it’s hard to know where to look—in a good way. From the bold hints of sinful, searing red everywhere to the breathtaking leads, complex choreography, and over-the-top costumes, this is aesthetically-pleasing theatre to the max.
Despite the large cast of colorful characters and the larger-than-life set design, the show makes it clear from the beginning that the main focus will be on beautiful Queenie (Anne Caitlin Donohue) and Burrs (James Ilsley), a couple involved in an ill-fated and violent (at least on Burrs’ end) love affair. Burrs, who is a celebrated Vaudeville clown, pines for the perfect girl, one like no other, at the beginning of the show. And early into the first act, he’s found his lovely Queenie. From there, however, things go downhill as their relationship grows more and more violent, and Queenie plans a “wild party,” in true 1920s fashion, in the hopes of publicly embarrassing Burrs.
Ilsley’s good looks and his knack for slimy charm make him hard to look away from onstage, creating a villain whom audiences will love to hate. And Donohue is so sweet and so vulnerable in her portrayal of Queenie that it’s no wonder that Black (Ben Muller), an innocent young man who has been lured to the party, falls for her almost instantly.
It’s not just the lead actors who make this show utterly watchable either. Natalie Turgeon nails her role as Madeline True, a lust-filled lesbian who is looking for a little “love” from any female with a pulse. Her bawdy, humor-filled rendition of “An Old-Fashioned Love Story” is one of the best moments in the show, though there are so many “best” moments that it gets hard to keep track after a while. This sexually charged, laugh-a-minute play is the definition of guilty pleasure and quite possibly the most sophisticated, adult, and intriguing play NRACT has put on yet.
The North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents THE WILD PARTY at 8 p.m. March 14 and 15, 3 p.m. March 16, 8 p.m. March 21 and 22, and 3 p.m. March 23 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Road Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in Greystone Village Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $18.59 ($15.48 students and seniors 62+), including fees.
BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/484065.
SHOW: http://www.nract.org/upcoming-productions/the-wild-party and https://www.facebook.com/events/278168035667760/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.
The Wild Party (2000 Off-Broadway musical): http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000234 (Music Theatre International) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_Party_%28Lippa_musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Andrew Lippa (New York City composer, lyricist, and librettist): http://andrewlippa.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/andrew.lippa (Facebook page, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lippa (Wikipedia).
Craig Johnson (director): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004306423862 (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.