Allow me to begin with a caveat: Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party,” a show based on the Joseph Moncure March poem of the same name, is not my favorite musical. I like the artistry of the poetry and the composition of the music, but I do not like the characters, or the situations they create for themselves.
Despite that fact, Green Valley Theatre Company’s production of “The Wild Party,” is a well-produced rendition of the show.
When it comes to talent, the deck is stacked for this production. Andrea St. Clair plays Queenie, the Vaudeville dancer who is rather “sexually ambitious,” as the first song informs us. Her portrayal of the conniving, manipulative character was spot-on. Ryan Allen’s portrayal of Black is good, but I found the character to be rather one-dimensional. I believe this is the fault of the writing, and is not a shortcoming on Allen’s part.
Lindsay Grimes plays Kate, and is one of the most interesting characters in the piece. Grimes plays the remorseless bad girl with just the right amounts of attitude and humor. Jacob Montoya’s Burrs was a highlight. Montoya was able to balance Burrs’ darker nature with moments of levity in a role that many actors turn into an exercise in excessive brooding.
All four of the lead actors could sing. And I mean sing. The leading quartet absolutely nails Lippa’s complex harmonies, and knocks out their respective solos.
Musical highlights of the show include “Poor Child,” and “Listen to Me,” both of which comprise of the leading quartet. The intensity of both songs and the strength of the actors’ voices made for excellent theater. “Let Me Drown,” featuring Montoya and Grimes, accompanied by the show’s strong ensemble, gives Montoya a great chance to shine – which he does. Brightly.
One of the lighter notes in the show is “A Wild, Wild Party,” which features the D’Armano Brothers, portrayed by Nephi Speer and Jonathan Reinhart-Cranmer, along with the rest of the company. It was a fun, raucous number, and featured excellent singing and good dancing on all parts. Again, Montoya – digging into Burrs’ clowning – shone.
The final trio, “Make Me Happy” is dripping with high-stakes drama. St. Clair, Montoya, and Allen all bring out powerhouse vocal performances in the number.
The nine-member orchestra, led by director Christopher Cook, is very good. When the singers were not mic’d, it was hard to hear some of the voices over the orchestra, but having a live band is worth it.
There were definitely a few opening-night technical difficulties, most notably microphone failures and a few lighting cues that were missed, but I have no doubt that the technical crew will remedy these issues for upcoming performances.
Design-wise, I think the set is excellent. I like all of the details that went into the set dressing (look for the signature Green Valley Theatre butterflies). The bathroom built in to the left side of the stage is well-done. The bathtub is great for eliciting laughs, though in “I’ll Be Here” Allen spent a good portion of the song singing into the bathroom’s wall while he was turned to face St. Clair.
The lighting design was a mixed bag – the colors chosen are well-balanced and evocative of the mood of each song, but the actors are frequently poorly-lit. A spotlight or two might alleviate some of that problem. Or, perhaps I am missing the point and it was an intentional decision to have things as dim as they were.
Overall, this is a very good production, and is absolutely saturated with talent. I would definitely recommend this show – but be warned, I wouldn’t want to have been sitting next to my Mom during “Come with Me.” This is definitely something to see with friends.
“Wild Party” plays weekends through March 9 at 3823 V Street, Sacramento. Tickets $18.
Please note: no one under the age of 18 will be admitted.
For more information, visit greenvalleytheatre.com.