The Studio Theatre in Washington DC is the third U.S. producing organization on the bandwagon of hosting a stage version of The Wild Party, Joseph Moncure March's 1928 narrative poem about a debauched Jazz Age party.
But unlike the Wild Party musicals expected at the Public Theater and Manhattan Theater Club in 1999-2000, the Studio Theatre's Secondstage version, beginning previews July 15, opening July 18 and continuing to Aug. 8, is a "built" piece in which the poem is combined with period song, dance and vaudeville acts.
Secondstage artistic director Keith Alan Baker directs the new piece; Robert Biedermann choreographs. The Wild Party will be performed in a third-floor studio, a 50-seat space, at The Studio Theatre complex. The SPT Equity company has two 200-seat spaces, the Mead and the Milton, within its building on P Street at 14th.
The poem, which depicted the underbelly of the Roaring Twenties, was published in 1928 and became a scandalous cult favorite. In it, showgirl Queenie and her lover, Burrs, throw a party with a guest list including seedy show folk, gangsters and playboys.
The poem was the basis for the 1975 James Ivory film of the same name. March was a poet, journalist and screenwriter who was a protégé of Robert Frost. He was managing editor for The New Yorker in the 1920s, and left the magazine to pursue verse writing ("The Wild Party" and "The Set Up" are his best-known pieces). He later moved to Hollywood to write screenplays. He also wrote scripts for State Department documentaries and was a feature writer for The New York Times Magazine. He died in 1977.
The Studio Theatre Secondstage production includies John Campbell, Mike Chamberlin, Claire Cherry, Yuval Cohen, Kate Debelack, Sean Ewert, Scott Griswold, Christine Herzog, ReNina Hoblitz, Chris Janson, Hilary Kacser, Will Pailen, Janet Pryce, Malanie Tatum, Cassie Tietgen, John Tweel, Sheira Venetianer, Joe Wildermuth, Daniel Wolfson and Yan Xi.
Designers are Giorgos Tsappas (set and props), Edu Bernadino (costumes), Eric Schoenberger (lighting).
Tickets are $15-$25, general admission. The Studio Theatre is at 1333 P Street NW at 14th Street. Call (202) 332-3300 for information.
Meanwhile, in New York City, a pair of musicals, each called The Wild Party, will indeed be seen in 1999-2000 in two different nonprofit nurtured productions -- at Manhattan Theatre Club and The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival.
A spokesperson for Manhattan Theatre Club confirmed composer-lyricist librettist Andrew Lippa's version of the Joseph Moncure March narrative poem, about a sex-and-booze Jazz Age party, will begin performances at MTC in February 2000. The Lippa version had an MTC workshop April 12-May 21, 1999, directed by Gabriel Barre and choreographed by Mark Dendy, who will repeat their chores for the full Off-Broadway staging.
No casting has been announced for the MTC production, but the workshop included James Barbour, Marin Mazzie, Kevin-Anthony, Luther Creek (Rent), Robin Irwin (Titanic), Jillian, Lawrence Keigwin, Bill Kocis, Alix Korey (Triumph of Love), Michael McElroy (Rent), Allison Munn (The Fantasticks), Bill Nolte, Steve Ochoa, Jayson Page, Elizabeth Parkinson (Fosse), Sara Ramirez (The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm), William Ryall (High Society), Jessica Stone and Dennis Stowe.
Meanwhile, at the Public, composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa's version, co-scripted and directed by artistic director George C. Wolfe, is still having its production details ironed out. A spokesperson said the show is indeed projected for early 2000.
The creative team, including designer Robin Wagner, is in place, but casting is not set, nor is the venue. According to a New York Times item, a Broadway casting call has been announced for the show, but, according to a Public spokesperson, "nothing is signed" and the Public is "exploring" its venue, casting and date options.
The Public hosted a workshop of its version of the story Feb. 15-25, 1999. The cast included Vanessa Williams, Mandy Patinkin, Eartha Kitt, Keith David (Jelly's Last Jam), Debbie Shapiro Gravitte (Jerome Robbins' Broadway), Jane Summerhays (Lend Me a Tenor, Me and My Girl) and an ensemble of nine.
Choreographer Joey McKneely (The Life) was also present during the workshop, which culminated in a Feb. 26 reading.
Still on board, as previously announced, are scenic designer Wagner (The Life, City of Angels, Angels in America), lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Ragtime) and costume designer Toni-Leslie James (Footloose, Jelly's Last Jam, Angels in America).
A full Public production of the work, with a libretto and direction by George C. Wolfe, was planned for February 1999, but due to artists' schedules, was bumped to the 1999-2000 season, suggesting that the show will have stars to anchor the story.
-- By Kenneth Jones