The guest list for The Public Theater's Broadway musical, The Wild Party, has been confirmed, and Norm Lewis, Marc Kudisch and Jane Summerhays are among those joining the company of previously-announced stars Toni Collette, Eartha Kitt and Mandy Patinkin.
Beginning previews March 10 and opening April 13 at the Virginia Theatre, The Wild Party is librettist-director George C. Wolfe and composer lyricist-co-librettist Michael John LaChiusa's version of the booze- drenched 1928 verse poem by Joseph Moncure March. The piece takes place at a Jazz Age party filled with seedy vaudevillians, slumming playboys, chorines and criminals.
LaChiusa (Hello Again, Marie Christine) has said the 1920s milieu and the bigger-than-life personalities offer him the chance to write set pieces, or "numbers."
Film star Collette ("The Sixth Sense," "Muriel's Wedding") plays Queenie, Patinkin (Evita, Sunday in the Park With George) is brutal Burrs and chanteuse Kitt is Dolores. Burrs and Queenie throw the party, which gets out of hand. The poem's final line is: "And the cops rushed in."
The cast of 15 includes Lewis (Side Show), Summerhays (Me and My Girl), 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). Producers are The New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater; Scott Rudin/Paramount Pictures; Roger Berlind; and Williams/Waxman.
Previously announced dates for the start of the show were March 7 (preview) and April 6 (opening); changes in schedules are routine in the world of developing work.
Joey McKneely (The Life) is choreographing.
Designers are 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 poem, scandalous in its time, has also intrigued composer-lyricist librettist Andrew Lippa, whose version, also called The Wild Party, began previews at Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club Jan. 25. Official opening is Feb. 24.
In the LaChiusa-Wolfe version, Kitt will play Dolores, a character March describes as weeping and wailing (and having scarlet nails) in his verse tale. It will be Kitt's first major appearance on Broadway since 1978, when she starred in Timbuktu! (and was nominated for a Best Actress Tony Award). Her first splash on a New York stage came in New Faces of 1952 (although she had previously danced in the revue, Blue Holiday). She memorably played Catwoman on the 1960s TV series, "Batman," and has released a number of recordings, including "Back in Business" and "Eartha Kitt, Greatest Hits." One of her signature songs, from New Faces, is "Monotonous." She is known around the world for her purring, ravenous vocal technique.
Patinkin, who'll play the brutal vaudevillian, Burrs, is the vocal powerhouse who played Che in Evita on Broadway and originated the roles of George in Sunday in the Park With George and Uncle Archie in The Secret Garden. He has performed frequently at The Public Theater and has a number of recordings on store shelves ("Experiment," "Dress Casual," among them). Last season he sang Yiddish favorites in the Broadway concert, Mamaloshen. He is currently seen as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on CBS' Chicago Hope.
The Australian native Collette is remembered by moviegoers for the title role in "Muriel's Wedding," in which she played a chunky outsider (and ABBA fan) who stumbles into an arranged marriage with a gorgeous sports figure.
She earned a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination for the 1994 film role. She also appeared in "Velvet Goldmine," "Emma" and "The Boys." She is currently shooting "Shaft."
Collette has appeared on stage with the Belvoir Street Theater and the Sydney Theater Company.
Tickets are $25-$85. The Virginia is at 245 W. 52nd St. in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 239-6200.