Review: WILD: A MUSICAL BECOMING at American Repertory Theater

Children's impact is front and center in this powerful production.

By: Dec. 11, 2021
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Review: WILD: A MUSICAL BECOMING at American Repertory Theater
YDE (Sophia) and the Boston Children's Chorus in WILD: A Musical
Becoming at American Repertory Theater now through Jan 2. Credit
Maggie Hall/Nile Scott Studios.

"We want you to panic! We want you to act! You stole our future, and we want it back!"

American Repertory Theater's WILD: A MUSICAL BECOMING does not hold back in its message, and truth be told, it shouldn't. With a book by V ( formerly Eve Ensler), music by Justin Tranter & Caroline Pennell with contributions by Eren Cannata, lyrics by Justin Tranter, Caroline Pennell & V (formerly Eve Ensler), and contributions to the score and book by Idina Menzel, WILD forces its audiences to think about the choices they make and the impact it has on the future.

WILD takes places in a fictional small farming town called Outskirtsia in a future where climate changes has shown even more of an impact on the world than it does now. We meet Bea (played by Idina Menzel) and Sophia (played by YDE), a mother and daughter pair of farmers. Bea is on the brink of financial ruin and is trying to figure out how to save her farm and provide for her daughter. Sophia is an impassioned young woman who learns just how bad the climate situation truly is. The show explores the generational divide when it comes to the climate and other social and economic issues.

The score is incredibly energizing and uses a variety of genres to tell the story. The opening number, "Mouths to Feed", sets the tone of the show. This song fits in the country/folk genre of music which helps tell the audience where the show is set and helps introduce the people well meet. In the universe of the show, WILD's show stopping number "Panic", is written by the children of Outskirtsia. Tranter and Pennell use more of a pop-punk style of music for this number which really separates it from the numbers that are more focused on the adults of the town.

The book, however, left me wanting more. The dialogue felt disconnected from the score and didn't feel as fleshed out. It felt as though the script was merely there to pass the show from one song to another. At one point the show did a complete 180 and turned into a fantasy musical. There was no signs of this coming and it really felt random. However, this is a "musical becoming." I look forward to seeing how the script becomes more fleshed out in the future.

The stand-out performances of the evening came from the "children" of the show, especially from YDE. YDE's vocal talent and acting ability was truly incredible. She was able to command a presence on a stage full of Broadway alums and really make us feel for her character. I was also impressed by Paravi Das (Forte) and Luke Ferrari (Possible). They served as Sophia's friends and helped give us insight to the thoughts of the youth in Outskirtsia. They had incredible acting and vocal skills.

The band led by David Freeman Coleman (music director and keys) and featuring Jordan Carter (drums) and Serena Jade Miller (guitar) were a fantastic addition to the show. There was never a moment where I felt they weren't together or where I felt they were overbearing the vocals.

Diane Paulus (director and ART artistic director) and the team made many decisions that contributed to the show's "go green message." For example, costumers SiiGii, Roy Caires, and Tommy Cole used repurposed denim in all of their costuming. The set was reused from the ART's production of Macbeth in Stride (designed by Dan Soule) with the addition of sculptures from an event the company held at the Arnold Arboretum. In addition to this, there were no physical programs. Instead, audiences were able to scan a QR code which brough up a digital program.

Overall, this presentation was an incredible experience. The energy in the room on the night I attended was unlike any other I have experienced in my theatrical experience. I look forward to seeing WILD's journey and hope to one day see a fully produced production of the show.

WILD: A MUSICAL BECOMING is playing at The American Repertory Theater now through January 2nd. The show is directed by Diane Paulus and features choreography by Chanel DaSilva. The cast includes Brittany Campbell (Oak), Deborah S. Craig (Mrs. Maybe), Paravi Das (Forte), Luke Ferrari (Possible), Josh Lamon (Mr. Rail), Kingsley Leggs (Mayor Maybe), Idina Menzel (Bea), Javier Munoz (Mr. Custom), YDE (Sophia), and Michael Williams (Bicker Rail). The show also features members of the Boston Children's Chorus. Lighting is designed by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew and sound by Alex Giorgetti. The show was cast by Stewart/Whitley. Hope Villanueva serves as Production Stage Manager.

12/20/21 Update: On December 20th, the American Repertory Theater announced the cancelation of the remainder of their performances of WILD due to a COVID-19 breakthrough case.