Wild Party - 20 February 2017 Review

grotesque, dark and incredibly raunchy

Now under the ownership of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the newly renamed and completely re-branded The Other Palace blasts open its doors with an explosive, smokin' hot revival of Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party, based on Joseph Moncure March's poem of the same name.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Paul Taylor-Mills, this is the first show to step on stage under the venue's new title. It seems a little odd that the first choice is to revive a Broadway flop, but if anyone can breathe new life into old material, it's Drew McOnie, the choreographer whose name pops up everywhere you look.

The Wild Party is sensationally sexy and, well, wild, sort of like a fireworks show; it fizzes and dazzles and you have no idea where to look. McOnie makes good use of the small space, which is encased in a beautiful, crumbling Vaudeville design by Soutra Gilmour. No one is still for a single moment; even in the darkness the actors move to a sultry, choreographed rhythm.

There's an incredibly tight ensemble at the core of this piece, all of whom get their moment to shine. Dex Lee is devilishly delicious as Jackie, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt has the knack for stealing the scene when she has so much as an elbow on stage. But it is the gorgeous, genius pairing of Gloria Obiango and Genesis Lynea that steals the show. Effortlessly in time, all of the time, the pair's rendition of “Uptown” is simply brilliant.

Unfortunately, the score is mostly forgettable, and the vignettes make for underdeveloped characters which is, in this case, a fault of the musical. McOnie's direction ensures the piece is glued together well, although the ending feels too rushed and manic, which makes it difficult to feel anything for Frances Ruffelle's wide-eyed Queenie, who is reminiscent of a downtrodden Roxie Hart.

It's grotesque, dark and incredibly raunchy, but, to put it simply, The Wild Party is not the best musical ever written. Luckily, the cast and team behind this production do more than enough to save it, although you can't help but acknowledge that you may not see another revival in the next couple of years. Despite this, such a charismatic production bodes well for The Other Palace's tenure, and you can only hope that the fireworks continue.

Reviewed by Susannah Rose Martin.
20 February 2017, The Other Palace