Toni Collette singing the blues. Mandy Patinkin singing like there's no tomorrow. Earth Kitt singing -- or purring -- about how unkind time can be.
These performances and more were preserved on a cast recording of Broadway's The Wild Party April 17, the first original Broadway cast album on the newly-formed Decca Broadway label. The recording, produced by Phil Ramone, will be released May 23.
Composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa's new Broadway musical, The Wild Party, opened April 13 at the Virginia Theatre, luring the curious to the second New York musical of this season to be based on a 1928 poem that few heard of before 1999.
The dark musical earned a number of 2000 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Leading Actor (Mandy Patinkin), Best Leading Actress (Toni Collette), Best Featured Actress (Eartha Kitt) and Best Lighting Design. Tony Award winners will be announced June 4.
LaChiusa wrote the libretto with George C. Wolfe (who directs), drawing on the narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, who imagined a debauched Jazz Age party populated by playboys, show folk, drinkers, gangsters and hosts Queenie (a sex-driven chorine) and Burrs (her brutal lover and a vaudeville clown). The CD booklet includes LaChiusa's lyrics and illustrations, and is wrapped in a special sleeve that shows a detail of Miguel Covarrubbias' 1927 illustration from "Negro Drawings" (used in the shows logo and marketing campaign).
Previews for the intermissionless Public Theater production -- starring Collette as Queenie and Patinkin as Burrs, with Kitt as Dolores, plus 12 others -- began March 10. A cold and a strained voice kept Collette and Patinkin, respectively, out of several performances in previews.
Despite a negative review in The New York Times, The Wild Party was embraced by The New York Post, The Daily News, the Associated Press and others.
Mandy Patinkin's all-out performance as the savage party host, Burrs, who appears in blackface in parts of the show, represents the edgy, big, unequivocal quality of the piece, which celebrates "sin" and "gin" in equal parts.
Decca Broadway is Universal Music Group's new division specializing in re-releases of classic cast recordings and new show albums. The show tune legacy include Oklahoma!, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Man of La Mancha and the Andrew Lloyd Webber catalogue.
At Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club, composer-lyricist librettist Andrew Lippa's version, also called The Wild Party, opened Feb. 24 to mixed reviews and closed April 9. A cast recording of that version was made April 11.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not, considering the source material), both shows have an opening number called "Queenie Was a Blonde," which is the opening line of the poem.
The LaChiusa production, with a lean cast of 15, is produced by The New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater; Scott Rudin/Paramount Pictures; Roger Berlind; and Williams/Waxman.
The cast includes Norm Lewis (Side Show), Jane Summerhays (Me and My Girl), Marc Kudisch (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Yancey Arias (Miss Saigon), Nathan Lee Graham, Adam Grupper (I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change), Leah Hocking (Grease, Guys and Dolls), Michael McElroy (The Who's Tommy), Brooke Sunny Moriber (The Dead), Sally Murphy (Carousel), Tonya Pinkins (Jelly's Last Jam) and Stuart Zagnit (Off-Broadway's Kuni Leml).
The understudies include Adrian Bailey, Jennifer Frankel, Jeff Gardner, Jennifer Hall, David Masenheimer (for Burrs), Rene Millan, Dominique Plaisant, Ching Valdes-Aran and Nicole Van Giesen (for Queenie).
Joey McKneely (The Life) choreographs.
Designers are scenic designer Robin 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). Tony Meola is sound designer. Todd Ellison is musical director.
The opening night Playbill reflects the following songs:
"Queenie Was a Blonde"
"Marie Is Tricky"
"Welcome to My Party"
"Breezin' Through Another Day"
"Eddie & Mae"
"Gold & Goldberg"
"A Little M-M M"
"Tabu/Taking Care of the Ladies"
"Wouldn't It Be Nice?"
"Black Is a Moocher"
"People Like Us"
"After Midnight Dies"
"The Movin' Uptown Blues"
"The Lights of Broadway"
"Love Ain't Nothin'/Welcome to Her Party"
"What I Wish"
"How Many Women in the World?"
"When It Ends"
"This Is What It Is"
Tickets are $25-$85. The Virginia is at 245 W. 52nd St. in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 239-6200.