Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, is a musical, based on a poem by Joseph Moncure March written in 1928. It depicts the decadence of the roaring 20’s in New York. It’s a gritty, graphic tale about a time in American History few of us remember or know much about. The abridged version is it is a story of love and betrayal. Queenie finds her romance with Burrs fading so she decides to throw a party to try to rekindle the affair. A love triangle develops and someone dies.
The characters are not instantly likeable and some are downright despicable, if the actors create their art well. There is copious amounts of alcohol, sex, drugs, and debauchery. I was not familiar with the play. In fact, my knowledge of musicals in general includes high school performances of the Pirates of Penzance, Mary Poppins and The Sound of music. Some of the seedier scenes pricked at my maternal instincts and almost had me heading for the exit.
The adventure was planned for months. Hanni and I scoured my closets for gowns that befit the era, cocktail hats, and killer heels. We soaked up our two and a half hour drive to Portland, Maine, catching up on every topic, then stopped at Jeff’s house to dress. Shana, Lex’s finance, had arranged the surprise which included a sold out show full of friends and family. On our way to the restaurant, a woman on the street stopped us, “You guys looks so cool! Are you going to the Wild Party tonight?”
Shana was waiting. She was equally elegant in a gorgeous period, gray suit. A waiter asked Hanni where we were headed all decked out, and disappointedly commented he had been dying to see the show. We were riding high on our secret and our costumes.
After dinner, we walked to the Mechanics Hall Ballroom. The theater was on the third floor of the historic landmark; set up as a stage-in-the-round, with seating just slightly above. The pre-show party was peppered with actors in full costume (ladies in lovely, though racy, lingerie) who greeted the audience with glasses of Ration Rum and Alchemy Gin, setting the mood of a Speakeasy. Lights flashed and the audience took their seats. As I settled into the story and the moment, I took off my Mom cloak and absorbed the energy. This wasn’t a film, with multiple takes and copious editing. To be so close to the action, but to also watch the reactions of the audience across the floor was fascinating. Of course, as her mother, I am biased, but when Queenie danced by me, I honestly forgot she was my daughter.
Lex has been my remarkable little drama queen since birth. Her courage and self-confidence to stand before a crowd and lose herself into a role is as foreign to me as Hanni’s ability to look at something and recreate what her brain sees with her hands. Art of any form always astonishes me. Acting and drawing are not traits my daughters inherited from me. When the lights came up at the end, I turned to Hanni and realized we were both crying; not with sadness, just pure emotion. Shana’s surprise had been perfectly executed; Lex had no idea we would all be there. Yet to her credit, she never skipped a beat.
To my Broadway Baby, you have made me so proud. You astounded me as you sang 15 of the 18 songs in the production, danced with abandon, conveyed emotions deep and heartfelt, and never flagged in the stunning effervescence of Queenie.
Here are a few post-performance shots…
N.B. My sister bestowed the nickname, Broadway Baby upon Lex as a toddler, she would perform entire Disney musicals at bath time.