Original Broadway Cast Recording

The Wild Party [La Chiusa] [Broadway]

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New Yorker writer Joseph Moncure March's novella-length poem, The Wild Party, a verse depiction of roaring '20s decadence, was published in 1928 and fell out of copyright in 1994. Soon after, it began to attract the attention of theater people, and, amazingly enough, two competing New York theater companies ended up mounting entirely different musical versions of it within two months of each other in the second half of the 1999-2000 season: The Manhattan Theatre Club opened its production at its Off-Broadway house, while the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival mounted its production on Broadway. This is the cast album from the latter production, given a much bigger staging than its counterpart, with bigger stars (Eartha Kitt and Mandy Patinkin) and a far broader approach. Composer/lyricist/co-librettist Michael John LaChiusa and director/co-librettist George C. Wolfe are more ambitious than the Manhattan Theatre Club's Andrew Lippa, viewing their version of The Wild Party as evoking everything from the Lost Generation to the Harlem Renaissance. Many famous names are dropped in the lyrics, and the production is highly stylized, to the point that it's virtually a show-within-a-show. Patinkin, playing the male lead, Burrs, interprets the part as an Al Jolson-style minstrel/vaudeville performer who performs in blackface, and that is only the beginning of the racial and ethnic aspects of this version, which also leans heavily on uptown/downtown distinctions. In LaChiusa and Wolfe's reading, The Wild Party is a confluence of social, political, and artistic issues as well as just a wild party with its sex, drinking, drugs, and violence. Accordingly, LaChiusa's music draws heavily on 1920s hot jazz and the music of George Gershwin without descending to pop conventions. (It is ironic is that the Broadway version of The Wild Party is less tuneful than its Off-Broadway rival.) The combination of an astringent score and the deliberately overplayed performances makes this Wild Party a work more to admire coolly than to become involved with emotionally. The characters, who do not embody the ideas the show is trying to convey as well as they seem intended to, come off as an unsympathetic crew whose fates are hard to care about. And while individual moments in the music are impressive (as are individual performances, especially those of Kitt and female lead Toni Collette), the score on the whole is unmemorable, as seriously intended as it may be. And it may be that March's poem just isn't substantial enough to support all the intellectual weight LaChiusa and Wolfe want to hang on it. (The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe's The Wild Party opened at the Virginia Theatre on Broadway on April 13, 2000, and closed on June 11 after 68 performances.)

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:10 Amazon
2 2:06 Amazon
3 4:34 Amazon
1:32 Amazon
5 2:32 Amazon
6 1:46 Amazon
7 2:03 Amazon
8 1:38 Amazon
9 2:43 Amazon
10 1:16 Amazon
11 2:46 Amazon
12 1:50 Amazon
13 2:07 Amazon
14 4:26 Amazon
15 3:03 Amazon
16 3:04 Amazon
17 6:57 Amazon
18 2:44 Amazon
19 4:22 Amazon
20 1:38 Amazon
21 2:24 Amazon
22 2:47 Amazon
23 1:23 Amazon
24 1:43 Amazon
25 2:31 Amazon
26 2:37 Amazon
27 2:43 Amazon
28 1:59 Amazon
29 3:34 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick