What's In A Musical? The Wild Party
"I think people can be very territorial about opera and musical theatre and what they want from the respective genres. A lot of music theater people want their musicals to be in the standard form of Damn Yankees or a Rodgers and Hammerstein type musical.
But if you really think about it, the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows were extremely risky and daring and are as close to being American operas as you got in that period. Today they are seen as being a traditional form, but when they were written they were rather radical, while appealing to a mass audience at the same time."
-Composer and lyricist Michael John LaChiusa, in an interview with Talkin' Broadway
Michael John LaChiusa's musicals often address darker American themes like death, racism, ambition, and love that becomes violent. The Blank Theatre Company is putting on a limited run of The Wild Party, LaChiusa's Jazz Age musical, at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre through November 20. Short of going to New York or taking a time warp to the twenties, this show gives us some of the greatest musical theater in Los Angeles.
The Wild Party got a hard reception when it first opened in New York in 2000. Conservative Broadway audiences wanted more Dorothy and less gin, skin, and sin with their musical theatre, and the original Broadway run of The Wild Party closed after only 68 performances. (The original poem by Joseph Moncure Marsh on which the musical is based was censored in its own time.)
Los Angeles has already been more receptive. The performance LAIST saw was almost packed on a Wednesday night. This is an edgy, seductive, nasty musical, complete with sex, drugs, bootleg liquor, an orgy and a murder - and the music itself is hard, fast jazz. It's L.A. Confidential meets the Roaring Twenties, and all in a room in New York with three bottles of bathtub gin.