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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa

Alex Kulak2
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#1
Posted: 8/6/20 at 12:09am

I'm sure there have been threads about this before, but none in the last year or so based on my searches.

I recently discovered the Andrew Lippa version of The Wild Party and absolutely fell in love with it. Of course, I've heard the story that both shows opened in the same season, LaChiusa's version on Broadway and Lippa's off-Broadway, but I'd never actually looked at either show. From what I've seen, people seem to be split down the middle over which version they like more. Having listened to all of Lippa's version and most of LaChiusa's version, I'm finding that I like Lippa's version more. I understand that LaChiusa's music is more of a pastiche of 1920's Vaudeville, but the gospel and pop-rock infusion of Lippa's is much more evocative and high-octane, and complements the innate melodrama of a play based on a narrative poem.

What are your thoughts on the shows? Which one do you like more? Also, have Lippa or LaChiusa ever commented on each other's interpretation of the material?

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Jordan Catalano
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#2
Posted: 8/6/20 at 12:11am
So many threads on this. And the answer is La Chiusa.
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#3
Posted: 8/6/20 at 12:18am

I prefer LaChuisa's. I like Lippa's as well, and I do think that score is more accessible to listeners out of context (plus Julia Murney is fab). LaChuisa's score is so complex and can be not as enjoyable when you're not watching the show. 

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darquegk
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#4
Posted: 8/6/20 at 9:56am
LaChiusa’s show is a towering artistic achievement that I do not like. Lippa’s show is an uneven, melodramatic and sometimes shallow piece that nonetheless captures the grotesque silliness and camp of the novel much more for me.
Owen22
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#5
Posted: 8/6/20 at 11:11am
LaChiusa. if for only the quality of the lyrics vs Lippa's alone.
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#6
Posted: 8/6/20 at 11:45am

I will say among younger crowds (35 and below) Lippa is the only one anyone knows -- maybe they know a couple of songs from the LaChiusa version, but they don't have the knowledge of it like they do with the Lippa one, nor have they seen a production of it. I love LaChiusa, but his shows are notoriously complex and often difficult to follow on a cast recording. In the past month or so I've been listening to the LaChiusa version and I think it's probably better than the Lippa one... but without the Lippa one giving me the context, I never would have been able to follow the LaChiusa recording at all.

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#7
Posted: 8/6/20 at 12:07pm

^ Yeah but a recording is not supposed to explain everything in the show. That's why they made a play with, ya know, dialogue and everything.

I absolutely loved the La Chiusa WILD PARTY on Bway. It was riveting theater (most of the night) with brilliant performances, great design, and fearless direction by George C Wolfe.  That show is what made me want to see the Lippa version in the first place.

Gotta say I liked the second one much much less, despite a great Idina Menzel wailing away. I found the score relentlessly the same, had too few characters to latch onto, gave no sense of the twenties, and frankly bored me much of the (shorter) time. The set design had one great trick when the decks split apart, but otherwise was mostly an empty stage. Give me George C Wolfe, Toni Colette, Tonya Pinkins and Eartha Kitt any day.

Updated On: 8/6/20 at 12:07 PM
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#8
Posted: 8/6/20 at 12:42pm
I forget how good Toni a Collette was in this. Wish it had a longer life
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#9
Posted: 8/6/20 at 12:50pm

I heard a recording of Lippa's Wild Party when he did a workshop at CSC.  Marin Mazzie was Queenie and Sara Ramirez was Kate.  When you hear it you discover why the Michael John version is so much better.  For Lippa, his melodies were more important than plot or character.  He moved songs from character to character.  His original intent clearly gave each character their own musical theme.  But when he moved the show to MTC, he swapped things around for the sake of keeping the energy up, not for the sake of character.  This might have had something to do with the his director not being as theatrical daring as Wolfe.  With the Michael John version, there is not a single note that isn't painstakingly specific to the character signing it.  It's harder for the audience in the moment, perhaps, but infinitely more thrilling in the end.  Michael John for the win!

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#10
Posted: 8/6/20 at 12:53pm

They're two different shows that happen to share a source material and some lyrics. I saw them both and pretty much agree with darquegk above. I found LaChiusa's insufferable in the theatre while acknowledging the artistry (especially the gorgeous Bruce Coughlin orchestrations) and found Lippa's thrilling and evocative of the period in a totally different way but also rather on the broad and declamatory side. Both unimpeachably great casts.

In the intervening years I've softened both positions and like the LaChiusa more than I did and the Lippa less but again, they're totally different things. One is in the mold of the "cerebral" shows of Tesori and Guettel and Gordon and is angular and tough and dissonant and could conceivably live in an opera house and the other is much more in the pop musical vein of Rent and Wicked and other more melodic, groove-based vocally pyrotechnic scores.

It was an exciting time in NY theatre to have two high-profile high-calibre adaptations of the same work to directly compare and contrast and I think elevated both shows moreso than had only one or the other made it through.

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#11
Posted: 8/6/20 at 1:07pm
I think Eartha should of won the Tony over Ziemba (who I like)
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#12
Posted: 8/6/20 at 1:25pm

I saw them on consecutive nights- first, the Lippa.  It was stunningly directed, performed, and choreographed.  One of my most engaging nights in a theater, and I still love the score. Brian D'Arcy James was the perfect mix of raw sexuality and barely contained violence, Julia Murney was astounding, Alix Korey was hysterical, and I even loved Idina (whom I normally find grating).  

Then the other.  Like Lippa's, it begins with the opening line of the poem: "Queenie was a blonde and her age stood still, and she danced twice a day in vaudeville."  Then at the end of the opening, Toni Collette rips off her top and shakes her bare breasts.

WTF?  You couldn't do that in vaudeville or even cheap burlesque.  Then Mandy Patinkin happened. The worst, most infuriating performance I have ever witnessed.  He tried to upstage everyone else- at one point during someone's solo he slowly walked across the stage DRINKING A BOTTLE OF EVIAN WATER.  After one of Eartha Kitt's numbers (she was the only reason we stayed awake), Mandy kept trying to kill her applause.  I mean, as soon as it began- jumping up and down, waving his arms, shouting... it only made everyone clap longer. 
Once I checked my watch- it had an indiglo dial (remember those?) and people around me all looked my way.  I mouthed "sorry!" (didn't know it would be so bright) and they mouthed back, "How much longer?" 

"What- and quit show business?" - the guy shoveling elephant shit at the circus.
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#13
Posted: 8/6/20 at 2:03pm

I think the essence is how differently each piece treats the moment where Black and Queenie dance for the first time and have the initial spark that's going to lead to all the ensuing disaster. In Lippa it's "The Juggernaut" and it's wild and bluesy with screaming brass and Idina Menzel standing on a box and wailing to Jesus and it was a moment where the roof just blew off the joint and the raw animal lust between Julia Murney and Taye Diggs was unmistakable and you knew big bad things were going to go down.

In LaChiusa it's "Tabu" and it's a hypnotic African-drum seduction number where they have a quiet, intense moment of connection surrounded by this eerie beauty and the sense of time standing still while they're in this bubble. The magnetic draw between Toni Collette and Yancey Arias was unmistakable and you knew creepy bad things were going to go down.

They're both totally valid ways of dramatizing the same moment and each totally unique to the composer and they're my favorite moments of both shows.

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#14
Posted: 8/6/20 at 2:45pm
I saw the Lippa Encore’s version with Sutton Foster and found the show very “eh.” And I’m a huge fan of the cast album. But the show as a whole just didn’t do much for me. I thought Pasquale’s “What is it about her?” would be mind blowing but it wasn’t.
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#15
Posted: 8/6/20 at 3:51pm

Someone in a Tree2 said: "^ Yeah but a recording is not supposed to explain everything in the show. That's why they made a play with, ya know, dialogue and everything."

Thanks for the snark, your air of superiority really adds to the discussion.

The overwhelming opinion on this board is that the LaChiusa version is better, but I'm telling you that's really not the opinion of millennial circles by a long shot. There's a general lack of knowledge of the LaChiusa version, and that's mostly because of the recordings. Many of my friends refer to the LaChiusa show as "The OTHER Wild Party" 

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#16
Posted: 8/6/20 at 6:55pm

^ If my snippy comment was too sharp, I humbly apologize.

It threw me that you appeared to dis the LaChiusa cast album because his songs alone didn't convey a clear picture of the plot. I would say that, except for through-sung shows, most musicals are built that way, no?

Alex Kulak2
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#17
Posted: 8/6/20 at 9:37pm

darquegk said: "LaChiusa’s show is a towering artistic achievement that I do not like. Lippa’s show is an uneven, melodramatic and sometimes shallow piece that nonetheless captures the grotesque silliness and camp of the novel much more for me."

This is exactly what I was trying to say in the original post. I like some of LaChiusa's songs, but I often feel like his music is all head and no heart. Lippa's music doesn't sound like the 1920s, but it absolutely sounds like a booze and sex-addled romp with dark twists and turns.

Updated On: 8/6/20 at 09:37 PM
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#18
Posted: 8/6/20 at 10:28pm

I like them both for different reasons. It took me a long time to come around to the Lippa version. The Broadway version had the better score and a far better cast, but Lippa's music is more accessible for modern audiences which is likely why the younger generation has latched onto it and why it's produced more often. I've had to sit through many auditioners singing "The Life of the Party."

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#19
Posted: 8/6/20 at 10:34pm
Without question or hesitation, LaChiusa. I understand the appeal of Lippa’s, but those are also the reasons why I think it’s inferior. LaChiusa’s intentionally dizzying jazz-infused score nailed the tone of the source material in my opinion. I find the show more sultry, more drunken, more dangerous, more wild. The racial tensions are more amplified. The characters that make up the ensemble are better utilized and have purpose; it’s really an ensemble piece with everyone’s paths intertwining at the party. So much forward energy and momentum. I actually think it’s quite an achievement what LaChiusa and Wolfe did.
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#20
Posted: 8/6/20 at 10:49pm

LaChiusa's version reminds me of Berg's Lulu, and Lippa's feels like a pale euphemism next to it.

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#21
Posted: 8/6/20 at 11:48pm

Lippa's was...is....was very popular but LaChiusa's is the one with staying power.

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#22
Posted: 8/7/20 at 7:20pm

Did anyone see the Lippa version at Encores Off-Center? Didn't he rewrite the opening and closing numbers?

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#23
Posted: 8/7/20 at 9:45pm
I saw it. The rewrites didn’t do the show any favors. It opened with “A Wild, Wild Party.” I scrim almost fell on the actors during “Let Me Drown” the night I went.
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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#24
Posted: 8/8/20 at 6:57am

HeyMrMusic said: "I saw it. The rewrites didn’t do the show any favors. It opened with “A Wild, Wild Party.” I scrim almost fell on the actors during “Let Me Drown” the night I went."

Yes, and it was even worse. Even though I loved the casting. 

 

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The Wild Party: Lippa vs. LaChiusa#25
Posted: 8/8/20 at 10:54am

CATSNYrevival said: "Did anyone see the Lippa version at Encores Off-Center? Didn't he rewrite the opening and closing numbers?"

I'm not particularly a fan of Lippa's version, but the changes he made to the show worsened it. "A Wild, Wild Party" opened the show for some reason, with "Queenie was a Blonde" and  "Out of the Blue" cut, which kind of undercut the entire piece.

Lippa writes fairly generic musical theater-pop vocal showcase numbers and Wild Party is no exception. The songs are more accessible and work out of context, so they've found a great deal of life in schools and cabarets and auditions. The show itself is pretty shallow and focused solely on the Black-Burrs-Queenie melodrama romance triangle- everyone else is basically featured ensemble and don't really have much to do following their introduction numbers.

LaChiusa's score is more nuanced and period accurate and his version of the show actually expands the source material. All the party guests are developed- they have clear motives for being at the party and clear character arcs. The show delves into race and sexuality and how the characters are affected by society's views.  It's just a richer take.

"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."