It’s the top of the second act, and Kate takes the stage. She lounges about on a bed upstage with a jug of wine. As the lights come up and the music plays, she starts to sing the opening lyrics to Life at the Party:
“Who needs money? Not me.
Who needs fortune or fame?
I don’t need a new career, a sympathetic ear, a name.”
At this point in the show, we as an audience know many of Kate’s woes. We know she is feeling lonely, and she clearly has strong, unreciprocated feelings for a man at this party. However, in this moment, we see her take the stage and sing her heart out. In the small, intimate space – each note felt like a moment with an audience member. We are drawn into her self-celebration as she becomes The Life of the Party.
The Opening Night audience cheered as LJ Bullen’s belt rang throughout the theater, and it was clear she was having a blast from start to finish.
Blank Theatre Company presents The Wild Party
Directed by Jason A. Fleece, Andrew Lippa’s musical follows Queenie (Karylin Veres) – a woman stuck in a toxic relationship with Burrs (Dustin Rothbart). As the devastation of her living and romantic situation starts to settle, Queenie decides to throw a wild party. All she wants is a night with no rules, a room full of her friends, and the possibility to embarrass Burrs to a point of no return. While the party may begin within her control, events start to spiral, and Queenie quickly learns that you have to be careful what you wish for.
This jazz-age musical features hit songs including Queenie Was a Blonde, A Wild, Wild Party, I’ll Be Here, Make Me Happy, and Life of the Party. The cast of stellar vocalists makes every song pop – which in this writer’s view, is especially impressive given that none of them have microphones. Every performer’s belt can be heard well above the band, and musical theatre fans will know that is no small feat.
Creative Use of Space
The theater is intimate, and the cast is certainly not small. The musical features an ensemble of 14, and this writer was in awe of how Fleece and the artistic team made use of every ounce of space. Particularly with Lauryn Schmelzer’s choreography, the musical numbers rarely featured a dull moment, and no matter where one looked on stage, there was always something to see. Queenie’s goal is to throw a party no one will ever forget, and in this space, you might just find that you feel like a guest in this apartment, living the excitement alongside the cast.
In the midst of the party, the guests decide to liven things up with a musical number that recounts the biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Golden Calf. A Wild, Wild Party explores these famous moments but with an added twist – that perhaps having fun can be a little more important than good morals. Schmelzer’s choreography took over the space and with the close proximity, we as an audience were right in the middle of the action. As Eve finds herself battling over how to respond to the snake, you might just feel like you are making the decision alongside her.
Some hardcore devotees of musical theater, like this writer, might find the production’s tempo lagging a bit here and there. That said, the superlative choreography and vocal performance will likely delight most audiences, as they certainly did on opening night. Standout vocals and top-notch choreography make The Wild Party a night of fun. If you are a fan who seeks out the more obscure musicals, this is a show for you.
Queenie: Karylin Veres
Burrs: Dustin Rothbart
Mr. Black: Marc Prince
Kate: LJ Bullen
Madeline True: Mary Nora Wolf
Eddie: Ian Reed
Mae: Kaitlin Feely
Nadine: Samantha Rockhill
Phil D'Armano: Nicky Mendelsohn
Oscar D'Armano: Larry D. Trice II
Sam: Mark Yacullo
Dolores: Carter Rose Sherman
Max: Jackson Mikkelson
Jackie: Trent Ramert
Director: Jason A. Fleece
Music Director: Aaron Kaplan
Choreographer: Lauryn Schmelzer
Stage Manager: Caitlyn Birmingham
Scenic Designer: Kathryn Healy
Lighting Designer: Benjamin Carne
Costume Designer: Colin Bradley Meyer
Sound Designer: Tom Jasek
Fight Choreographer: Brian Plocharczyk
Intimacy Designer: Christa Retka
August 25 - September 25, 2022
Sundays - 5 pm
Mondays - 2 Monday performance on 8/29 and 9/19 at 7:30 pm
Thursdays - 7:30 pm
Fridays - 7:30 pm
Saturdays - 7:30 pm
The Reginald Vaughn Theatre
1106 W. Thorndale Ave.
About the Author: Lauren Katz
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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