The Wild Party
New York, 1929. Queenie lives with her lover, a vaudeville clown named Burrs. They have been together for 3 years and their relationship is growing stale. On a typical Sunday morning in the apartment they share, Burrs is festering. Queenie is still in bed. She lazily asks Burrs for a cup of coffee and Burrs loses his temper and attacks her. She escapes him by kicking him in the groin and pulling a large kitchen knife on him. He retreats to the bedroom as Queenie laments her situation and longs for a change – “Out Of The Blue.” The perfect way to get back at him occurs to her: they’ll throw a party. She suggests the idea to Burrs and he jumps at it. Night descends and the guests arrive, announcing themselves as they enter – “What a Party.” Finally, Queenie enters, looking ravishing, and kicks things off by inviting them all to “Raise The Roof.” As the guests mingle, Burrs flirts with Nadine (a minor) and Queenie vows to “raise her skirt and make him hurt.” Just then, a semi-reformed hooker, the vivacious, trouble-making Kate arrives (“Look At Me Now”) with her boyfriend of the moment, the suave, impeccably dressed Mr. Black. Queenie immediately sees in him the opportunity she’s been looking for to arouse Burrs’s jealousy. Black is also drawn to her (“Poor Child”), seeing her as a victim of Burrs’s abuse. Meanwhile Kate intends to lure Burrs away from Queenie so she can finally have him for herself, while Burrs wants to hold on to Queenie no matter what the cost. Madelaine True is unsuccessfully cruising the party for prospective lovers. Feeling sorry for herself, she longs to recreate “An Old-Fashioned Love Story.” As the tension mounts for Queenie, Burrs, Black, and Kate, everyone at the party begins the latest dance craze, “The Juggernaut.” Queenie’s dance with Black enrages Burrs. He grabs Nadine and starts kissing her forcefully, until Kate pulls Nadine away from him and throws her down on the floor. Burrs abruptly interrupts Queenie and Black. He warns Queenie to “Lay off that guy, it’s the bad news,” and physically threatens her. They are distracted by the young composers, Oscar and Phil d’Armano, who choose this as the perfect moment to showcase a number from their new, sure-to-be-a-hit musical, based on the Bible titled, “Good Heavens” – “A Wild, Wild Party.” As everyone congratulates them, the party is momentarily interrupted by a neighbor who shouts at them to quiet down and threatens to call the police. The huge hulk of a boxer, Eddie. and his diminutive girlfriend, Mae, speak for the whole group, telling him to forget it and go to bed. They then celebrate their feelings for each other – “Two of a Kind.” A few hours pass and Queenie and Black are sitting on the floor behind some furniture, talking quietly as the party continues behind them. Black expresses concern for her and suggests she leave Burrs. In spite of her confusion (she is starting to have real feelings for Black), Queenie defends her life with Burrs – “Maybe I Like It This Way.” In the bedroom, Burrs admits to Kate that he can’t stop thinking about Queenie – “What Is It about Her?” The first act ends with Black and Queenie kissing passionately as Burrs rejects Kate’s pleas to go to bed with her and forget about Queenie. Act II opens with Kate on stage alone, wondering why she isn’t “The Life of the Party.” Queenie retreats to the bathroom where she attempts to sort out her feelings. Black finds her and they share a few moments of fun together, leading Black to reveal his feelings for her – “I’ll Be Here.” They kiss as Burrs enters, surprising them. He suggests that Black leave, asks Queenie’s forgiveness and begs her to stop the party. Just then, Kate enters and the four of them go at one another, each trying to get the other’s attention. This struggle climaxes when Burrs grabs Queenie by the throat and begins choking her. At that point, she vows to let the party continue – “I don’t care if it never stops!” – and leaves the bathroom with Black. Burrs starts to lose control and, with Kate’s help, launches a major production number dedicated to his own destruction – “Let Me Drown.” Now completely inebriated, Burrs begins to hallucinate. He sees and hears Queenie everywhere and grabs Mae away from Eddie, thinking she is Queenie. A fight breaks out in which Burrs is severely beaten by Eddie until Black, to keep Eddie from killing Burrs, knocks Eddie out with a piece of a broken chair. Kate nurses Burrs’s wounds and shares some cocaine with him, providing an opportunity for Black and Queenie to seek some privacy in the bedroom. They talk – “Tell Me Something.” Black is from Chicago and has only been in New York for a few months. He works the door of a nightclub in town. Queenie drops her defenses and they begin to make love as the rest of the gang does the same. The stage is writhing – “Come With Me.” The neighbor is then seen calling the cops as groups of lovers pass out all over the room. Slowly, Jackie, the dancer, who has been mute all evening, wakes up and rises to his feet. He looks about the room sadly taking in the spectacle the guests are asleep, bodies and limbs intertwined, bottles, glasses, and clothing littering the floor. He notices the Victrola, cranks it up, and plays a record. He dances to the music, making contact with each of the sleeping party-goers as he does “Jackie’s Last Dance.” Kate and Burrs wake up wondering where Queenie went. Burrs begins to hunt the apartment for her. Finally, he enters the bedroom and discovers Queenie in bed with Black. Burrs is enraged. Black and Burrs struggle and Burrs pulls out a gun from under the mattress. He holds it on Queenie and Black, trying to decide who to kill first – “Make Me Happy.” Finally, Queenie distracts Burrs, Black grabs him and they all struggle for the gun. It goes off. Burrs is fatally wounded and Black is left holding the gun. Queenie panics. If Black is caught, he’ll surely get the chair. He tells her he loves her. She begs him to leave by the fire escape. He does, taking the gun. After some reflection on the events of the last few hours (“How Did We Come to This?”), Queenie realizes that it’s time for her to move on. She puts on her coat, takes a last look around at the life she’s leaving behind, opens the door and steps through – into the light of her new life.
– Gabriel Barre
Queenie: Julia Murney Burrs: Brian d’Arcy James Reno: Todd Anderson Kegs: Ron J. Todorowski Madelaine True: Alix Korey Eddie: Raymond Jaramillo McLeod Peggy: Megan Sikora Max James: Delisco Beeks Rose Himmelsteen: Felicia Finley Sam Himmelsteen: Peter Kapetan Ellie: Amanda Watkins Jackie: Lawrence Keigwin Oscar d’ Armano: Charles Dillon Phil d’ Armano: Kevin Cahoon Dolores Kena: Tangi Dorsey Mae: Jennifer Cody Nadine: Kristin McDonald Kate: Idina Menzel Black: Taye Diggs The Neighbor: Charlie Marcus Swings: Joyce Chittick, Colleen Hawks, Steven Ochoa, Steven Pasquale