Sunday, March 2, 2003

CCM players vibrant in 'Wild Party'

By Joseph McDonough
Enquirer contributor

What a party. Wow.

The Musical Theater Department at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is producing the sizzling off-Broadway hit The Wild Party, and it is indeed a wild and wonderful time.

The Wild Party, music, lyrics and book by Andrew Lippa, is based on the 1926 epic poem by Joseph Moncure March that chronicles Manhattan decadence in the 1920s.

Dancer Queenie (a fabulous Angel Reda) decides to throw a party to make her lover Burrs (intriguing Eric Daniel Santagata) jealous and angry. As the night wears on, the party and their lust/hate relationship spin dangerously out of control.

Director Aubrey Berg gets inspired work out of each of the 19 members of his company. It makes for a show to remember.

With Diane Lala's powerful, sensual choreography, the cast is infectiously energetic as they hoof and sing through Lippa's appealing Jazz Age score.

Reda is sexy and smart as troubled Queenie, quite sympathetic but not all victim. She shows a strong vocal range in several numbers, especially "Out of the Blue" and "Raise the Roof."

Burrs is a crying-on-the-inside vaudeville clown. Santagata displays the multiple sides of Burrs, from the rousing song and dance of "Let Me Drown" to the ever-lurking self-loathing of this violent man living on the edge.

It's hard to stand out from such a terrific ensemble, but Kearran Giovanni gives a fine performance as a tough cocaine addict who becomes attracted to Burrs. She opens the second act with the vibrant "The Life of the Party."

Also strong is J. Michael Kinsey, the decent uptown guy who falls for Queenie at the party. He scores vocally with the sweet "I'll Be Here" and the climactic "Make Me Happy" with Queenie and Burrs.

Lindsay Pier has a first act showstopper with "An Old-Fashioned Love Story," a funny send-up of the search for lesbian romance.

Musical director Greg Anthony deserves his share of the credit, as do the 11 musicians he conducts.

Mark Halpin's beautiful set has a perfectly period living area, bedroom, bathroom and fire escape, all spun around on a huge turntable in front of a painted backdrop of a polluted Roaring '20s New York City.

The lighting design by Steven C. Mack projects the eerie pizazz of the party with flashes of color throughout.

Kudos also go to Dean Mogle for the flapper era costumes.

The Wild Party continues Thursday through Sunday, 556-4183. CCM advises that the show is recommended for mature audiences.

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