Public Wild Party Begins March 7 Previews at Virginia Theatre

News   Public Wild Party Begins March 7 Previews at Virginia Theatre The Public Theater's Broadway staging of The Wild Party, by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe, will start previews March 7 at the Virginia Theatre, with a previously-announced opening of April 6.

The Public Theater's Broadway staging of The Wild Party, by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe, will start previews March 7 at the Virginia Theatre, with a previously-announced opening of April 6.

Film star Toni Collette, hot from her role as the shaken mother in the feature film, "The Sixth Sense," and an audience favorite for 1994's "Muriel's Wedding," will play the seductive Queenie in the musical retelling of the 1928 narrative verse poem by Joseph Moncure March.

The full ensemble has not yet been announced, but Mandy Patinkin will co star as vaudevillian, Burrs, and Eartha Kitt will be partygoer Dolores. The source material concerns a debauched Jazz Age party filled with showfolk, playboys, blondes and brutes.

(The poem, scandalous in its time, has also intrigued composer-lyricist librettist Andrew Lippa, whose version, also called The Wild Party, will be staged Manhattan Theatre Club beginning Jan. 25. Official opening is Feb. 22, 2000. That cast includes Brian d'Arcy James as Burrs, Julia K. Murney as Queenie and former Rent-ers Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel (former Rent-ers). Gabriel Barre will direct and Mark Dendy will choreograph.)

* In The Public 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.

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Composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa (Hello Again, Marie Christine) and librettist Wolfe (Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk) co-authored the new musical, which will be directed by Wolfe. Joey McKneely (The Life) is choreographing.

Producers are The New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater (George C. Wolfe, producer) and Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Elizabeth Williams and Anita Waxman.

Smokey Joe's Cafe is the current tenant of the Virginia. It closes in Jan. 16.

The musical adaptation of the infamous 1928 narrative poem, "The Wild Party," by Joseph Moncure March, will chronicle the booze-soaked antics at a debauched Jazz Age party populated by showfolk, underworld figures and slumming playboys.

Still on board, as previously announced, 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).

It's a busy season for producers Berlind and Rudin. Berlind is also handling Kiss Me, Kate (with Roger Horchow).