Although I am biased, having previously worked with a number of the actors in this production, I wanted to write a quick piece on why you should head over to Peppermint Creek Theatre Company to see their latest production, The Wild Party, directed by Ben Cassidy.
Going into this production, I had no idea what the show was about. I did know, though, that this show involved a heavy amount of sexual content. After seeing the production, I can confirm that my friends had definitely understated the extent of these graphic themes, making this show a hard R-rating and not suitable for people below 16 or 17.
So, what’s the story? After being abused by her long-term lover, Burrs, the beautiful Queenie decides that it’s time to get revenge on her toxic partner in the form of a party. Many eccentric characters are invited and with a combination of alcohol and lust, chaos ensues. That all comes to a halt by a gunshot (this is not a spoiler; it’s mentioned in the opening number).
What starts off as a fairly simple idea, Wild Party thrives with this idea, and through magnificent performances, haunting jazz music, and beautiful technical aspects, portrays it in flying colors.
The music is by Andrew Lippa, who is known for his music in shows such as The Addams Family, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Big Fish. I wasn’t familiar with the sounds of his musicals going into the show, but afterward, I became instantly intrigued to seek out his other works. With this show, Lippa mixes modern sounds into the 1920s jazz aesthetic, which is the centerpiece of the music. The band, led by musical director John Dale Smith, plays the score perfectly, to the point that it sounded legitimately professional and blended with the rest of the show seamlessly. If you’re a fan of very brassy, percussion-filled, trumpety, saxophone-style music, then this show will not disappoint you.
Do not underestimate non-professional actors, especially these ones. The entire ensemble is spectacular. Although credited as the lead, I was unable to see Bronsyn Lee Sacker as Queen, but instead Sally Hecksel, a last-second understudy who played this role with such depth and brilliance and portrayed the feeling of “broken” with such charm and ease. Kameron Going, starring as the male lead Burrs, delivers a performance similar to Heath Ledger’s famous Joker performance. His embodiment of evil, mixed with his golden vocal cords makes this a legendary performance in the Lansing theatre community. Act one is almost entirely stolen by Laura Croff, who portrays one of the secondary characters, Madelaine the lesbian. Her comedic timing, facial performance, and Broadway-level singing voice will make you remember her long after the show ends. I could go on and one about the performances in this show, but that would just take up too much space because I could rave about every person in this cast.
What really makes this show stand out is the level of tension and anxiety that it carries. At numerous parts during the show, I cringed in my seat in fear of what may happen next, and this kind of reaction keeps you enthralled every second. There are a lot of shocking, disturbing events that happen in this show, but this production makes these events seem beauteous. It couples the horror with music and dance, which lessens the pain, but is still (if not more) uncomfortable.
With a ticket price of $15 for students, it does cost a pretty penny. But, to be fair, the Wharton Center charges at least double that for one of their shows, and even though this show lacks the Wharton-sized budget, the artistry is so genuine and energetic that you would be missing out on something special.
The Wild Party plays at the Miller Performing Arts Center (6025 Curry Lane Lansing, MI 48911). Ticket prices are $20 for adults, $15 for students and senior citizens (65+), but only cash and check are accepted at the door (you can preorder your tickets online with a card if you’d like). The remaining showtimes are December 6-9, all performing at 8pm.