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The Wild Party, by Andrew Lippa

Monday, June 29, 2009
I had the GREAT opportunity to see OnStage Atlanta's production of The Wild Party this weekend, and I have to say, this show is every bit as WILD as the title says it is.

Let's begin by first stating that Barbara Cole-Uterhardt and her artistic company are the best things that have happened to theater in Decatur in a long time. This was the first show that I have had a chance to see at OSA in awhile (since Urinetown I guess), and just the whole look and feel of that space has changed. I loved how the transformation and preparation for entering into the decadent roaring 20's begins before you even enter the theater. With fun paintings on the wall, wine bottles and underwear strewn around, the lobby looks as if the cast "lived it up" before going on stage. I know it has little to do with the action taking place in the theater, but it did help set the mood, and shows that this new blood thinks about everything.

Once inside and seated with my glass, or should I say glasses : ), of wine I began to take in the set. Eh...I could take it or leave it. I love the way it was designed and arranged. I really enjoyed the colors, but most of the set pieces just seemed hodge-podged together from the 50's, 60's, or any decade past. I understand filling the space with all 20's items would prove a bit tedious, but it was most distracting that the ice-box looked like it was right off the set of Lassie or Leave it to Beaver. All and all, my issues with the set were VERY minor in the whole scheme of things.

I love the direction that Mrs. Utherhardt chose to take with the cast, although I do question having so many people on the stage. At times they seemed to spill off and into the audience! The dark underlying tension from the minute people stepped on stage, warned the audience that this is going to be bumpy ride. Nothing about this performance is going to be easy or light, it is going right for the jugular and not letting go until the final bow. I also really enjoyed the musical direction of both the cast and band. For the most part, all the soloists and songs are top-notch. You could find almost any of these performers singing in any of the top Atlanta venues. There were a few rhythm and tempo issues, but all that was forgiven when I found out that the pianist for the show had just joined the cast one night before. WOW.

One reason to see the show is Anthony Owen's choreography. It is so dark and distorted, broken arms, strange angles, almost as if Bob Fosse choreographed while under the influence of acid. Having said how great the choreography is, the flip side is that when you are trying to do something so twisted, that it is very hard to make it look uniform and cohesive when you have 15+ people doing it at the same time on such a small stage. It was also a little bit bizarre to see a majority of the cast dancing, and one or two people on the side lines still having a party. It did not always seem to move the story forward.

Two other technical aspects to discuss and then I will give you my take on the casting. I really enjoyed the lighting of the stage. From the chandelier mid-stage, to the blues and pinks used throughout, it really gave great accent to the scenes and the over all color-palette. I am guessing that the goal with the show's color scheme was a very heroin chic look. Lots of purples, blues, pinks, reds, browns, all reflected in make-up, costuming, lighting, and paint. The costuming, unfortunately, did not really add or distract from the show. I just kept thinking what a shame, that was really a chance to have fun with the women's dresses. It is not that I did not like them, there was nothing truly memorable about them.

The cast though, this is the bread and butter of this awesome production. This show was made for Mary Nye's AMAZING voice. It is like she is the energizer bunny, and her voice just got stronger and stronger as the show went on. The great thing about her, is that not only is the voice top-notch, but this gal has the acting chops to boot. I love Googie Uterhardt, and think that he is a great actor, and this girl went toe-to-toe with him in every scene, and at times, she stole it right out from under him. Partnering this leading lady with a formidable foe could prove to be difficult, but not when you have the likes of Marcie Millard and Googie Uterhardt around. What is there to say about these two that hasn't already been said over and over? They are stellar in their roles. Unfortunately, rounding out the 4 main leads, seems to be a bit of a newcomer according to his bio. Timmonte Hood as Black is a weak link in comparison to his other stage partners. He is not awful, he just cannot hold a candle to the other three, and comes across very timid and weak. Neither are adjectives that you would want to use to describe Black.

Standouts in the supporting cast are Cathe Hall Payne as Madelaine True: Lesbian. She may not have the largest range when it comes to her vocal belt, but BOY can that lady sell a song. Sharon Litzky and Jay Tryall are truly hilarious onstage as the delightfully dumb duo of Mae and Eddie. And Leslie Bellaire as the gender-bending Jackie is beyond beautiful. His/Her dance is breath-taking, and worth the price of admission alone. I have to say that there was a girl in the cast whom you cannot take your eyes off of. I am not sure of her name, but when you see the show you will know who I am talking about. The short red headed lady who dances in everything. She is just mesmerizing to watch onstage. Amazing.

As you can see from my wordy review, I really enjoyed this show. Like I said before, it is not light, it is not easy, but it is one heck of a Wild Party.

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