Theatre aficionados, history buffs, lovers of great show tunes, this one’s for you: The Wild Party is running at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center from Nov. 4-11, and it is not to be missed.
From the minute I sat down at Tuesday night’s show, presented by the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, I knew it would be a refreshing change from traditional drama performances.
“We wanted it to be completely immersive,” said Alvin Mayes, co-director of The Wild Party and director of undergraduate studies for TDPS. “We wanted the audience to be involved in the performance, we wanted the actors to interact with the audience in as many ways as we could feel possible.”
Immersive it was, as the 1920s speakeasy decor made audience members feel as though we had been transported back in time to Prohibition. Some were even seated in front of a bar, next to a small stage, which allowed for interaction with the actors and added to the illusion that we were actually patrons of “Queenie’s Nightclub,” as was scrawled on the walls of the room.
The opening number, “Queenie was a Blonde,” gave a Greek chorus-style summary of who exactly Queenie was: a spirited, beautiful dancer who had taken many a lover until she fell under the spell of a man called Burrs — who, it was quickly revealed, was not so charming, after all.
It was hard to tear your eyes away from the explosive couple, played by junior and senior theatre majors Monica Albizo and Kyle Travers, respectively, who portrayed their characters with impeccable timing and dramatic, yet not over the top, deliveries.
The rest of the cast soon filed in for the titular extravaganza during the number “What a Party” as Queenie and Burrs’ esteemed guests – a lesbian, a minor, a hooker and others- introduced themselves to the audience.
The arrival of one guest, Kate, made quite a scene, as the thinly-veiled hostility between her and Queenie became apparent. Aryssa Burrs, a senior vocal performance and music education double major, masterfully played the role, her soaring vocals heightening the drama that ensued in all her numbers.
The main source of contention between the characters arose after Kate introduced her friend, Black, to the guests of the party. Black, played by senior theatre performance major Morgan Scott, was immediately taken by Queenie’s beauty and wished to rescue her from her abusive relationship with Burrs.
“I don’t really think of it as me playing a lead, I just kind of think of telling the story and what my part in the story is,” Scott said.
“It’s really awesome to just be more in touch with humanity and different sides of people…making the person three-dimensional and human. They have their flaws, they have their strengths,” he said when asked about his favorite part about performing.
Black’s expressive ode to Queenie, “Poor Child,” was just one of many outstanding musical numbers. My personal favorites? Madelaine’s, the lesbian, lament about her love life, “An Old-Fashioned Love Story,” a hilariously tragic tale brought to life by junior theatre major Whitney Geohagan.
The rowdy ensemble scene “A Wild, Wild Party” was another highlight, featuring a catchy song that will stick with you long after the play’s end.
The second act of the play felt brief, but was action-packed as the love triangle between Burrs, Queenie and Black came to a head. Albizo’s stunning vocals and theatricality took the deservedly spotlight during the last few numbers as Queenie was forced to make her decision.
The conclusion, although unsurprising, did not fall flat, which was a testament to the raw emotion present in the performances of our three main leads.
“The cast is an amazingly talented and great group of people that I’ve felt the most comfortable around of any cast that I’ve worked with in this department,” Albizo said.
That chemistry within the group, and the sheer talent of the entire cast, makes The Wild Party a must see – perhaps even more than once.
Featured Photo Credit: The cast of The Wild Party, courtesy of Stan Barouh and The Clarice.
Setota Hailemariam is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.