Arts

Review: ‘Wild Party’ Is a Lively Romp in Celebration of Jaxx Theatricals’ Re-Opening

(L-R) Madelyn Claire Lego and Kyle Stocker in Jaxx Theatricals' production of "Wild Party" in Hollywood, CA. Photo credit: Corran Villalobo

Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party is as unrestrainedly fun and freeing as ever inside Jaxx Theatricals’ new space in Hollywood. If you were to ever imagine yourself at a lavish gathering akin to the ones described in The Great Gatsby, you might conceive of this specific production where emotions run high, half-clad bodies run fabulously amok, the dancing is feverishly unrelenting, and jealousy-fueled entanglements compel and crescendo with dramatic results.

The once Off-Broadway gem, now a Jaxx Theatricals specialty for the regional nominations it has scored, is only playing through March 30th, although this rendition features some new cast members and is celebrating both a 17-year anniversary and re-opening. The venue’s fifty-odd seats may seem prohibitively small, but this Wild Party — directed, choregraphed, costume-designed, and co-produced by Jeremy Lucas — stimulatingly fills its setting to the brim, offering a snapshot of the 1920s to go along with goosebumps-induced singing notably by its four principals.

Lippa’s premise is simple but draws in the observer with relatable motives. The prepossessing Queenie is in a push-pull relationship with the abusive Burrs, a vaudevillian clown by trade. Queenie laments her dilemma and proposes a party to her boyfriend; however, it’s not just any ol’ get-together but one with no limits, where Queenie can reclaim her power and “rise.” Among the sundry guests are Kate, Queenie’s competitive firecracker friend who arrives with her newest lover of the hour, the not-like-the-others Mr. Black. He is smitten with Queenie who is just as interested to avenge her loss of pride, if nothing else. Burrs is incensed with envious rage, Kate rejoinders by trying to seduce Burrs, and a full-fledged love quadrangle is incited.

Jaxx Theatricals’ production of Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party has returned for another (short) engagement to celebrate Jaxx Theatre’s new home in Hollywood. Image courtesy of Jaxx Theatricals

Madelyn Claire Lego, who is impressively also a pro-wrestler, dazzles with a triple-threat display as Queenie that would rank atop most end-of-year lists. There is such depth to her expressions from “Out of the Blue,” when her eyes well up, all the way through to “How Did We Come to This?,” when her Queenie brings the house down with an even more formidable vocal belt that ricochets off the walls and through the hearts of attendees.

The red-suspendered Burrs, the closest thing to an antagonist, similarly resonates with the audience because of Kyle Stocker’s presence and believability. Stocker’s intense non-verbal gestures — without going over the top — indicate a man who is hopelessly in love and clinging to Queenie but doesn’t know how to healthily cope. Act II’s “Let Me Drown,” a stunning, Joker-esque depiction of the impending catastrophe of loss, is resoundingly delivered.

Kate, the quintessential “Life of the Party,” is realized with a sassy and powerful gusto thanks to the dynamic Whitney Vigil who infuses her character with vibrato-laden howls that ring out with a pitch-perfect melodiousness. Kate’s ambitiousness is matched by her intrepidness — no better example than when she stands affirmatively on a bartop to voice her intentions.

Chris Louis, who dons the white suit and spectator shoes of the enigmatic guest and object of Queenie’s desire, is smoothly crooning, sympathetic, and reassuring as Mr. Black. Louis’ voice is layered with a plush tenderness that not only has his love interest swooning but observers as well. “Poor Child” is proof-positive of this, which takes the form of a multipart harmony in one of the most satisfying numbers of the show.

The cast of Jaxx Theatricals’ production of Wild Party in Hollywood, CA. Corran Villalobo

As the lesbian playgirl Madelaine True, Natalie Reff dazzles in a stylishly purple outfit, making quite the statement with “An Old-Fashioned Love Story,” which incorporates chairs in the saucy style of Bob Fosse or, as recognized through the eyes of younger onlookers, Reputation-era Taylor Swift.

The interplay between Joel Jofre’s Eddie, a dim-witted pugilist, and Mary Louise Lukasiewicz’s ditzy damsel Mae produces some of the best levity in Wild Party. The two share a winning chemistry during their dueted “Two of a Kind” when Mae is flipped by Eddie before grabbing hold of him like a backpack. Jofre’s Eddie also engages in a memorable “Fight” with Stocker’s Burrs, which is much more convincing than the usual onstage dustups — a credit to Lucas.

Other individual cast standouts include JD Torres Morabito’s sensuously balletic Jackie, Kyler Wells who sings his heart out as Max, Alora Kinley who helps set the unfettered, Cabaret-reminscent tone as Detective Legs/Kegs, Matt Bergonzine as well as Brian Bogart as the charismatic D’Armano brothers, and Julie Mai Nguyen who is perhaps the best overall dancer in the company as Dolores.

The snappy and fluid dancing is, indeed, one of the main reasons to see Wild Party as the ensemble members succeed in lathering up the crowd when they synchronously “Raise the Roof,” clasp and spin as partners in “The Juggernaut,” and tap dance with abandon. When they’re not center stage, the cast occupies a back row of chairs or one of many furniture pieces in an effort to convey the ultimate festivity.

(L-R) Chris Louis and Madelyn Claire Lego in Jaxx Theatricals’ production of Wild Party in Hollywood, CA. Photo credit: Corran Villalobo

Colin Tracy (also the disgruntled Neighbor) and Morabito’s set design — inclusive of a surrealistic haze — features a sparkling backdrop curtain, chandelier, a fainting couch, piano, bed, bathtub, bar, and more. Combined with Lucas’ costumes and Calvin Butler’s technicolor lighting, a vivid picture of a flashback to the speakeasy epoch is completed. Lastly, musical directors Jill Marie Burke and Brent Crayon lead the virtuoso mini orchestra (assisted by Jamie Humiston’s sound design), which provides a jazzy ballast for the vocalized lyrics.

At the end of the day, if there’s any interest in attending the most unbridled of evening parties as a bystander, then Jaxx Theatricals’ limited-run production of Wild Party functions as an elixir for all of the world’s drudgery. Prepare to not only familiarize yourself with Jaxx again, but voyeuristically enjoy a decadent night out replete with a roller coaster of sensations turned up to eleven!

Jaxx Theatricals’ Wild Party runs only three more times — on March 28th through the 30th, with all showtimes being at 8 pm. For tickets, visit showclix.com. The Jaxx Theatre is located at 5432 Santa Monica Blvd in East Hollywood, CA 90029. Parking is available behind the theatre.

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