RAHWAY, NJ — With a successful opening weekend in the books for Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party,” a Community Theater production being shown in Rahway’s newly built Hamilton Stage, Fearless Hearts and Fearless Productions hope momentum will continue to build in the coming weeks for this local version of a cult classic.
“The Wild Party,” based on a 1928 poem, had a short run on Broadway in 2000, and features an acclaimed score that this production’s vocalists do justice, said show Director Brian Remo.
It’s fallen out of the national spotlight over the years, added Remo, but the no-holds-barred story still resonates with audiences.
“It actually didn’t do very well on Broadway, for whatever reason. I won’t begin to judge. But from a community theater and a regional standpoint, it’s developed quite a cult following, mostly because I think the opportunity to be risque and edgy and dark and evil, you get cult followings for things like ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’” said Remo. “I think people stayed away from it because of its risque nature, and it’s one of those forgotten gems.”
There are dark twists and turns to the plot, which takes place before the stock market crash in 1920s Manhattan. Vaudeville dancer Queenie and her violent partner, vaudeville clown Burrs, host a colorful cast of characters in a deadly, all-night party. Throughout the story, the characters are shown to be involved in damaged and abusive relationships, said Remo.
But “The Wild Party,” and in particular this version of the production, create “beautiful symbolism” that’s fortified by the cast and vocalists, who are “as dedicated and talented as you could ever ask for,” said Remo.
There’s “messy behavior” occurring onstage, added Remo, but also a positive emotional core that’s made “The Wild Party” a sleeper hit over the years.
“That’s what I think our production calls to light. I think if you look at it on its surface, it’s a dark production. What it really is, if you look at the symbolism, if you look at the compartmentalization of the storyline, you can find a duality in its presentation,” said Remo. “It’s not just a dark story, each character represents a spiritual principle within the lead character’s mind, that ultimately things like hope and fear of the unknown are addressed.”
The lead, Queenie, and the other characters attending the party are brought to life by an incredibly hard working cast and the Greek chorus, added Remo. And the actors and singers are among the reasons for why this version of “The Wild Party” is enjoying early success.
“Number one, it’s exceedingly strong vocals. The four principals are among the very best in their craft, and the ensemble is as deep as a bottomless well. We have leading men and women playing vocal ensemble parts, so it is a very deep cast,” said Remo. “Number two, we have a lot of people who are very familiar with the show, probably about half of them are part of that cult following. And number three, we have people that don’t know the show but know of the show, and work from that angle.”
“The Wild Party” was critically acclaimed when it first ran in its brief Broadway stint, and was nominated for eight Tony Awards in 2000, including “Best Musical” and “Best Original Score.” In its first weekend at the Hamilton Stage, said Remo, the shows have been intimate but well received, and the show is looking to fill the new theater in the coming two weeks.
“We are proud to be bringing a lot of enthusiasm to the arts district of Rahway, which is a great hub for the artistic community, and I think to come to Rahway alone for a great night out,” said Remo. “Brand new theater, amazing orchestra and choreography, powerful experience. I think anyone looking for a real good representation of what’s going on in Rahway, this is the party to come to.”
The show will run at the UCPAC Hamilton Stage on Friday, Sept.18, through Sunday, Sept. 20, as well as on Saturday, Sept. 26, and Sunday, Sept. 27.