In case you didn’t know, this week has been proclaimed “Jazz Week” and Moonbox Productions has a fierce, down and dirty jazz musical to kick it off. THE WILD PARTY carouses at the BCA through May 1st. Inspired by Joseph Moncure March’s sardonic 1926 poem, George C. Wolfe and Michael John Lachiusa have crafted a musical which doesn’t so much set the earth on fire, as scorch it.
Guests at Queenie’s “wild party” all have “one thing in common,” as Bob Seeger would say. “They’ve got the fire down below.” Director/choreographer Rachel Bertone’s production triumphs, despite the dark, debauched story. Queenie (Katie Anne Clark), the chorus tells us, is “sexually ambitious,” a penchant not overlooked by her jealous husband (Todd Yard), an unhappy minstrel (picture Al Jolson) on the vaudeville circuit.
Everyone is on the make: If not for sex, for glory. From Meredith Gosselin’s wonderfully intense performance (“I need somebody with spunk!”) in hot pursuit of Janelle Yull’s hilariously drugged out, barely functioning zombie to Ricardo D. Holguin’s charismatic cocaine fueled party animal to the two downtown producers (the highly amusing duo of Ray O’Hare and Michael Herschberg) who can’t wait to change their names and take on Broadway And the sensational Shana Dirik who dogs their footsteps in hopes of a comeback (What she can do to five strikes of the kettle drum!) — Every character packs a punch (especially Steven Martin’s ex-boxer).
Terrell Foster-James and Davron S. Monroe have a showstopper with “Uptown” which gets even better when Yard joins in. “Blame it on the Gin” is another. So is the “Black Bottom” dance number but my favorite is Clark and Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia’s gorgeous, heartbreaking “People Like Us.” Music director Dan Rodriguez and Bertone get the cynical rhythms just right. The story may be cold but the performances are hot.