Michael John LaChiusa’s The Wild Party will receive its first major London production at The Other Palace, playing from Saturday 11 February to Saturday 1 April 2017, with a press night on Monday 20 February. Directed and choreographed by 2016 Olivier Award winner Drew McOnie and starring Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle, The Wild Party will be the inaugural production at The Other Palace, formerly St. James Theatre, when it reopens in February 2017 as the newest addition to The Really Useful Theatres Group and a home for new musical theatre.
Set against a backdrop of Manhattan decadence and 1920’s excess, The Wild Party tells the story of Queenie and Burrs, a Vaudeville showgirl and a Vaudeville clown whose relationship is marked by vicious behaviour and recklessness. In an attempt to salvage their toxic union, they decide to throw a party to end all parties. The guests are a vivid collection of the unruly and the undone: a cocaine-sniffing bisexual playboy; a washed-up boxer; a diva of indeterminate age; a fresh-faced ingénue; and a handsome Valentino who catches Queenie’s roving eye. The jazz and gin soaked party rages to a mounting sense of threat, as artifice and illusion are stripped away. But when midnight debauchery turns into tragedy, the revellers must sober up and face reality. After all, no party lasts forever.
Frances Ruffelle will play Queenie. Frances is perhaps best known for originating the role of Eponine in Les Misérables in the West End and on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for her performance. Her many other stage roles include Dinah in the original company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express (West End), Roxie Hart in Chicago (West End), Frastrada in Pippin (Menier Chocolate Factory) and the title role in Piaf (Leicester Curve). Frances has recorded four solo albums and performed her solo shows at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the Garrick Theatre, the Crazy Coqs and New York’s 54 Below.
Frances said: “I discovered the amazingly edgy, jazz-infused score to The Wild Party about 10 years ago. Many West End producers have tried to get the rights with no success, but luckily for me, the composer Michael John LaChuisa was in the audience when I was performing my solo show in New York. We were introduced after the show and I asked him why the show hadn’t been seen in London. He just said: “You are my Queenie, it’s yours”. It really is a dream come true, and I’m now working hard preparing for a role that I know will be demanding but hugely rewarding. See you at the party!”
The Wild Party will be directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, who received the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer for his work on In The Heights (King’s Cross Theatre). Drew will direct and choreograph the European Premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom at West Yorkshire Playhouse this Christmas, with other recent choreography credits including Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Bugsy Malone (Lyric Hammersmith), The Lorax (The Old Vic) and Oklahoma (UK Tour). Drew is also the Artistic Director of The McOnie Company, for which he recently created a new dance-thriller version of Jekyll and Hyde at The Old Vic.
Based on Joseph Moncure March’s narrative poem of the same title, The Wild Party originally opened on Broadway in 2000 with a cast including Toni Collette, Mandy Patinkin and Eartha Kitt. The production received 7 Tony Award nominations, and a Grammy Award nomination for its composer and lyricist Michael John LaChiusa. LaChiusa is one of the most prolific writers for the American musical stage, with works including Hello Again (1994), Marie Christine (1999), The Wild Party (2000) and See What I Wanna See (2005). He was nominated for Tony Awards for his book and score for The Wild Party and Marie Christine, and for his book for Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
The Wild Party is produced by Paul Taylor-Mills, who has today been announced as the new Artistic Director of The Other Palace. Paul’s recent productions as a producer include In The Heights (King’s Cross Theatre), The Last Five Years (St. James Theatre), Side Show (Southwark Playhouse) and Carrie: The Musical (Southwark Playhouse).
The Wild Party has music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa and a book by George C. Wolfe and Michael John LaChiusa. It is directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie with musical direction by Theo Jamieson (Funny Girl, West End), set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour (Dr Faustus, Urinetown, The Commitments, West End) and lighting design by Richard Howell (Jekyll and Hyde, Old Vic). Casting is by Will Burton. It is presented by Paul Taylor-Mills by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe.
Further casting is to be announced.
Photo: Fern Berresford