The Wild Party
The Wild Party
Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa | Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe | Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
Manhattan decadence in the 1920's provides the backdrop for this tough musical fable. Queenie, a vaudeville chorine, hosts the blow-out of the title with her vicious lover, a black-face minstrel. The guests are a vivid collection of the unruly and the undone: Queenie's conniving rival; a cocaine-sniffing bisexual playboy; a washed-up boxer; a black brother act; a diva of indeterminate age and infinite life experience; the fresh-off-the-farm ingénue whose naïveté quickly evaporates; a lesbian actress and her comatose girlfriend; and the bargain basement 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. When midnight debauchery leads to tragedy at dawn, the high-flying characters land with a sobering thud, reminding us that no party lasts forever. MATURE SUBJECT MATTER. MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR SCHOOLS.
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About The Show

History for The Wild Party

Production Info

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Trivia for The Wild Party

The birthday of Michael John LaChiusa, the writer and composer of musicals including BERNARDA ALBA, THE WILD PARTY, and MARIE CRISTINE.
The birthday of George C. Wolfe; co-writer of THE WILD PARTY.
In 2000 Michael John LaChiusa's musical THE WILD PARTY premiered at Broadway's Virginia Theatre where it ran for 68 performances and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book, Score, Actor, and Actress.

 Press for The Wild Party

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"The first musical triumph of the new century!" — New York Daily News, January 01, 2005
"THE WILD PARTY unfolds with all the speed of Jazz Age rhythms, and by the time its 100 furious minutes have run their course, the ferocity of it all leaves you both exhilarated and exhausted." — Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times, October 07, 2014
"It’s a good bet you will never find a more brilliant rendering of this party (based on Joseph Moncure March’s classic Jazz Age narrative poem)." — Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times, October 07, 2014
"THE WILD PARTY should make you want to go to a wild party, and this one surely does. It functions, in essence, as a musical manifestation of the effects of cocaine and bathtub gin..." — Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, October 10, 2014
"With his controversial THE WILD PARTY, prolific composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa continues to stretch the possibilities for contemporary musical theater. His racy musical is based on a 1928 poem about one night of escalating decadence, through which LaChiusa stages a brilliant, savage, polystylistic unmasking of the lies we live by." — Thomas May,
"THE WILD PARTY is a dark, sensual, and glittering musical. [It proves] that the good, old-fashioned book musical form is still vibrant and very much alive. Bravo!” — Thomas Burke,, January 01, 2000
"It should have many more reincarnations in the regional theatres and elsewhere and take its rightful place among the few great works of contemporary musical theatre." — Suzanne Bixby,
Written By: Hedy Weiss , October 07, 2014

Imagine the most sordid underbelly scenes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and you might begin to understand the sort of world you will enter as you arrive at “The Wild Party,” the fabulously warped, steamy, anything goes, show-biz-infused musical tragedy that is set in the New York of the Roaring Twenties and features a galvanic score by Michael John LaChiusa.

But here’s the real kicker: It’s a good bet you will never find a more brilliant rendering of this party (based on Joseph Moncure March’s classic Jazz Age narrative poem) than the one now being thrown by Bailiwick Chicago. On the tiny, jam-packed stage where all the action plays out, director-choreographer Brenda Didier and her cast just knock your socks off from first note to last in what is an altogether enthralling (adults only) production.

Take your pick: Rough sex, drugs, bootlegged gin, self-destruction, racial and ethnic role-playing, the corruption of a minor, the desperation of divas, strippers and chorus girls alike, the tricky moves of moochers, the twisted rage of abusers. And then there’s this: the heartbreaking discovery of love that proves more shocking than anything.

Didier is a fabulously audacious, hard-driving choreographer, and this show erupts with emotionally driven movement as lewd and bravura as the story itself, with Aaron Benham’s musical direction (and a four-piece band that sounds like an orchestra) in perfect sync with LaChiusa’s scorching score. But it is Didier’s direction of this show that seals the deal. She has cast it brilliantly, meticulously orchestrated the chaos and carnage of the party in spectacular tabloid fashion, and seen to it that every song becomes a full character study and scene.

At the center of the story is Queenie (a wonderfully raw Danni Smith), a sexually driven chorus girl nearing the end of the line. Restless, she suggests to Burrs (Matthew Keffer in a terrifyingly intense turn), a middling song-and-dance man with a reputation for  jealous rages who is her live-in lover, that they throw a party. It turns out to be a doozy.

Among the guests are: Dolores Montoya (the show-stopping Danielle Brothers), a famous stripper well past her prime but hungry for a comeback; Kate (the ideally glam Sharriese Hamilton), who has found stardom; Black (fine and subtle work by actor Patrick Falcon), the handsome hanger-on who is Kate’s lover but takes a shine to Queenie; Nadine (tiny, spot-on Molly Coleman), the underage girl infatuated with show biz; Phil (Gilbert Domally) and Oscar (Desmond Gray), both electrifying as a Nicholas Brothers-like black dance team; Eddie (the fiery Steve Perkins), the boxer who arrives with chorus girl Mae (the appealing Khaki Pixley); another chorus girl, lesbian Madelaine True (Christina Hall), and her alcoholic pickup (golden-voice Sasha Smith); Jackie (a louche Ryan Lanning), the ambisexual, disinherited banker’s son; and the deftly comic/naive Gold (Jason Richards) and Goldberg (Jason Grimm), theater owners ambivalent about their Jewishness whose move from the Bowery to Broadway makes them the target of many overtures.

Much of what goes on that party is beyond tawdry (designer Megan Truscott’s ideally “shabby burlesque” set captures the mood). But amid all the desperation, violence and opportunism, a real love story (tragic, of course) emerges between Queenie and Black, and it is expertly limned.

“The Wild Party” unfolds with all the speed of Jazz Age rhythms, and by the time its 100 furious minutes have run their course, the ferocity of it all leaves you both exhilarated and exhausted. This production also is the latest indication that Bailiwick, whose recent shows have included “Carrie” and “Dessa Rose,” is fast emerging as a top-ranking producer of musicals.

Musical Numbers for The Wild Party

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Queenie, the vaudeville chorine, and the vicious Burrs are a wild couple who decide to gather together a dozen or so of their more “interesting” friends for what turns into THE WILD PARTY. The combination of these substantial personalities in the volatile atmosphere of Queenie’s and Burrs’ flat is a recipe for…. well, discover for yourself. Artifice and illusion are stripped away in the music and lyrics of Michael John LaChiusa and the intriguing book by LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe, who drew inspiration from Joseph Moncure March’s 1926 poem, “The Wild Party.” LaChiusa reinvents the 1920s Prohibition Era with a challenging, jazzy and raucous score that will highlight talented performers and musicians alike. While THE WILD PARTY, with its mature subject matter, may not be appropriate for school performances, this Tony-nominated show manifests a sobering morality tale that mixes the vaudevillian roots of Broadway with its present-day artistry.

- Excerpted from "MAKE MINE RARE...BUT WELL DONE! ," as featured in Happy Talk, Volume 13, Issue 2 - Fall 2006

Awards for The Wild Party

Grammy Awards

Nomination, Best Musical Show Album

Vocal Range of Characters:

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Writers Notes for The Wild Party

Written By: Michael John LaChiusa

Shortly after it was published in 1994, Art Speigelman’s illustrated “The Wild Party,” a narrative verse poem by Joseph McClure March, was gifted to me by a friend. Written in 1927, the poem was a scandalous affair---banned in Boston, excoriated by critics---its history was more infamous than the actual poem itself. It’s a dark, sometimes funny tale of a debauched party hosted by Queenie, a vaudeville showgirl and Burrs, her homicidal lover. Lurid and unflinching, the poem revels in sex, booze, jazz, and sheer decadence. Of course, I liked it. But I wasn’t sure how or if I wanted to adapt it into a musical until two years later. Sometimes I’ll come across source material that interests me, but find I don’t have anything to say about it, musically, at that time. I’ll put that book, or essay, or newspaper article on my “Maybe” bookshelf and let it sit there. I might come back to it and discover that over the course of a few months, or a year, or even a decade that I do have, in the words of critic John Simon, “something to declare.” That was the case with “The Wild Party.” Once I decided that I wanted to turn it into a musical, I’d written a first draft within a month and brought to George C. Wolfe, then artistic director of the Joseph Papp Public Theater. George joined me in writing the libretto and we begin the process of creating THE WILD PARTY, which opened on Broadway in 2000.

And what a wild party it was. One of the greatest joys of my life was working with Mandy Patankin, who starred as Burrs. For this composer, he is the absolute ideal collaborator. I like to think of myself as a tailor: I may write a song and give it to an actor to perform, but I don’t expect or demand that actor to just do what I’ve written and be done with it. I prefer to work closely with him or her: finding the right key, choosing the best notes, utilizing and showcasing all the gifts that actor has to offer, exploring the lyrics--literally tailoring the song to fit, much as one would tailor a good suit. After all, it’s the actor, not I, who has to perform that song eight shows a week, week after week. I want the actor to feel comfortable and happy when it’s time to sing that song, much like the pleasure you feel when you put on your favorite sweater or sexiest shoes. Mandy was this composer’s dream; working with him was revelatory and made my songs better, more potent, more alive. Even today, when I hear someone sing one of Burr’s songs, I think of Mandy. It’s as though he’s infused himself into the very notes.

I learned how to play piano on an old player piano. Through a seemingly complex system of pedals, air tubes, and perforated piano “rolls”, the piano played by itself. My mother loved to collect piano rolls, mostly popular music from 1900-1930, though I remember a lot of classical music, too. I’d pump the pedals, and the keys would begin to play by themselves: ragtime, Gershwin, Irving Berlin. I’d make my fingers follow the phantom player and that’s one way I learned how to play. It’s also how I learned hundreds and hundreds of songs from the Jazz Age. When it came time to write the score for THE WILD PARTY, I had plenty of music to inspire me from the bountiful treasury of American song. Pastiche is a fun idiom to work in, but you have to be careful with it. You want to hint at a period style, not completely replicate it nor imitate it. If you’re working in a period style, you want to make it your own thing, otherwise you’re writing parody. That holds true for lyrics, as well. For instance, if your character is a witty bon vivant, such as the character of Jackie, you might want to hint at a Cole Porter’s deliciously sophisticated (and sexually suggestive) lyrics---but you don’t want to directly quote them. You want to create the feeling, the essence of a period by evoking style, but that can’t happen by simply copying it.

George and I conceived THE WILD PARTY to be played in one act, though divided into five distinct sections: “The Vaudeville,” where we’re introduced to Queenie and Burrs and their tempestuous relationship; “The Promenade of Guests,” where we met the party guests, low-brow and high-brow, black and white and in-between; “The Party,” where Queenie and Black, a gigolo, meet and begin their doomed romance; “After Midnight Dies,” where the party unravels; and the “Finale.” There had been a notion early in development that we create a party in real time---one that unfolded over the course of six or seven hours. But sanity prevailed, as well as commercial constraints (though I still would like to see that extended version!) It’s a challenging piece for actors: the level of musicality and acting ability has to be premium. Even the demands on the orchestra are very high. It’s not a show for the unsophisticated or those with limited talent. Because it was created with and for some of the finest actors and musicians, (Mandy Patankin, Eartha Kitt, Toni Collette, Marc Kudisch, Tonya Pinkins, Norm Lewis, Michael McElroy and Nathan Lee Graham, to name some of the stellar Broadway cast), the show is not for underachievers. And George and I were very interested in demonstrating the fascinating cultural mash-up at the time the story takes place wherein uptown met downtown, Harlem met Broadway, whites mingled with blacks, low-brow art met high-brow. One of the show’s most important themes is the way we use cultural masks to hide or obfuscate our real identities: racial masks, sexual masks, emotional masks. And equally important is what happens when those masks are removed. Where do we belong? Queenie and Black ask themselves, which is the same thing as asking: Who are we and can we live with who we are?

The issues of race and racial conflict seem to show up in all my work; it’s something that I’m compelled to address and question. And George C. Wolfe taught me an important lesson: that if I write complex, multi-dimensional roles for people of different ethnicities and races, young people will want to play those roles; they’ll go to our schools and colleges and universities to learn how to play these roles. And over the years, I’ve learned that George was absolutely right. Nothing makes me happier than when a young actor who’s starring in a production of one my shows says to me, “I’ve always wanted to play this part.” It’s humbling but so gratifying.

Performance Tools for The Wild Party

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Rental Materials for The Wild Party


  • THE WILD PARTY - Orchestra Package (15 Books/15 Players)
    • 1 – REED I (Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone)
    • 1 – REED II (Clarinet, Alto Saxophone)
    • 1 – REED III (Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone)
    • 1 – REED IV (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bariton Saxophone)
    • 1 – TRUMPET I (Doubling Flugelhorn)
    • 1 – TRUMPET II (Doubling Flugelhorn)
    • 1 – TROMBONE
    • 1 – PIANO (Doubling Celeste)
    • 1 – BASS (Acoustic Bass Doubling Tuba)
    • 1 – GUITAR (Doubling Banjo, Standard Ukulele, Baritone Ukulele)
    • 1 – VIOLIN I-II
    • 1 – VIOLIN III (Doubling Viola)
    • 1 – DRUMS (Traps, Police Whistle, Wood Block)
    • 1 – PERCUSSION (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
  • Rehearsal Set (22 Books)
    • 20 – Libretto-Vocal Books


  • Libretto/Vocal Books 10 pack
    • 10 – Libretto-Vocal Books
    • 1 – Libretto-Vocal Books

Cast Requirements for The Wild Party

7 Women
8 Men

Queenie - a fading vaudeville chorine, neither young nor old
Burrs - Queenie's vicious lover, a blackface vaudevillian
Jackie - a playboy of dubious sexuality
Miss Madelaine True - a nearly famous stripper
Sally - Madelaine's date, a morphine addict
Eddie Mackrel - a black, aging ex-champion of the boxing ring
Mae - Eddie's ditzy wife, a former chorine
Nadine - Mae's excitable 14-year old sister
Phil D'Armano - part of a black brother act
Oscar D'Armano - part of a black brother act
Dolores Montoya - an ageless star of yesteryear
Gold - a vaudeville producer with Broadway ambitions
Goldberg - a vaudeville producer with Broadway ambitions
Black - a handsome, suave escort
Kate - a dagger-tongued, former chorine and would-be star

Set Requirements for The Wild Party

THE WILD PARTY takes place in New York City in 1928.

A Bare Stage
Queenie and Burrs' Apartment

Materials Notes

Suspended Cymbal, Xylophone, Vibes, Mouth Siren, Temple Blocks, Chimes, Pipes [2], Timpani, Wood Blocks (2), Shaker, Marimba, Glockenspiel, Vibraslap, China Cymbal, Concert Bass Drum, Slap Stick, Splash Cymbal, Cow Bell, Floor Tom-Tom, Tam-Tam, Ratchet

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