The Wild Party

Acting Up Stage lets loose with this lively musical exploration of 1920s' excess

Music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
Book by Michael John LaChiusa & George C. Wolfe
Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
Directed by Robert McQueen
Music direction by Bob Foster
Choreographed by Stephanie Graham

Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Cara Ricketts and the Company. Photo by Racheal McCaig.

Toronto has been waiting a long time to see Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe’s acclaimed hit musical The Wild Party, a raucous and challenging celebration of jazz age debauchery. Based on Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 poem of the same title, public domain rules have kept the Broadway production off Canadian stages since its debut in 2000.

At the centre of Acting Up Stage’s vibrant production is the story of star-crossed lovers Queenie (Cara Ricketts) and Burrs (Daren A. Herbert), two licentious vaudeville performers who decide to throw a gin-soaked party. And what a party it is—a decidedly strange party, filled with addicts of all kinds and walks of life, joined together by their insatiable appetites and desire for the spotlight.

The first half of the play vibrates with energy, with incredible performances from the ensemble cast, and fantastic work by Bob Foster’s orchestra, who masterfully capture the flavour of the jazz age. The play is sharply divided between the upbeat first half and the more subdued second half—the hangover, if you will—which drags a little after the colourful action of the party. What is consistent throughout, however, is a sense of foreboding created; the feeling that the audience has jumped on a raucous train bound for trouble town.

It soon becomes apparent that the party is in essence a pseudo-egalitarian no man’s land within a society rigidly divided along lines of race, class, gender and sexuality. And we learn that the answer to rigid and unfair rules is probably not the absence of any rules at all. The play keeps returning to the themes of sexual assault and racism, with particularly interesting and controversial use of blackface and a symbolic commentary on the demonization of black masculinity in Western culture. These uncomfortable themes lurk below the surface of the play’s up-beat musical numbers in a way that keeps the audience on edge, reinforcing the musical’s overarching message: that these problems remain with us.

The Wild Party runs until March 8 at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Visit for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Fri, 2015-02-20 - Sun, 2015-03-08
Our rating:


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.