★★★★ | The Wild Party

The Wild Party review
CREDIT: Scott Rylander

Have you ever been to one of those parties where the memory of it makes you shudder and sigh in equal measures? You know the kind: the music’s loud, the people are louder, there’s way too much gin, people are taking drugs like they’re about to become illegal or something, your boyfriend sneaks off and does someone else in another room and you can’t quite even remember what or even who you did. No? Me neither. I’m more of a Bridge and canapés person but I like to dream.

‘The Wild Party’ depicts just such a party but back in the era of Vaudeville, dancing the Black Bottom and blasting out jazz. Based on a controversial narrative poem from 1927, this musical is a rollicking romp and a visual treat. Queenie and Burrs are ageing Vaudeville stars that decide to liven up their flagging relationship by throwing a wild party with a bath tub full of gin and an assortment of bohemian friends with fluid sexuality. Cue the entrance of old friend Kate with her hot gigolo lover, Black and things get messier than expected.

Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie (In the Heights, Bugsy Malone, Jekyll and Hyde) directs the piece and injects it with jaw dropping moves. Limbs flail, jazz hands waggle and a sinister pair of brothers hot-shoe it all over the stage. It’s visually dazzling if slightly overwhelming at times. The music is pure 1920s jazz and has enough oomph to carry the show which is needed as there isn’t a huge amount of plot: there’s a party with sex, drink and drugs and it goes wrong.

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Original Les Miserables star Frances Ruffelle is a treat to watch as Queenie. Simon Thomas is painfully handsome as gigolo Black and Dex Lee is a suitably sinister and sexually appealing Jacky, a coke-crazed bisexual rich kid. It’s a show that’s brash, loud and relentless which is no bad thing. What it lacks in plot and delicate characterisation it more than makes up with rousing choreography and, to quote another show featuring Vaudeville stars, ‘razzle dazzle’.

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The Wild Party plays at The Other Palace until 1st April 2017

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.