Feature: Inside THE WILD PARTY At Garden Theater

Columbus resident Andrew Lippa continues to plant his flag in the theatre world

By: May. 09, 2023
Feature: Inside THE WILD PARTY At Garden Theater

What do JANE EYRE, LITTLE WOMEN, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and the Gospel have in common? They've all served as the context for musicals ... twice.

The same is true for Joseph Moncure March's THE WILD PARTY. Seventy years after it was published, the book-length poem found its way into the hands of composer Andrew Lippa, who decided it would make an excellent musical.

Short North Stage will present Lippa's work May 11-28 at the Garden Theater (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus). Lippa and the cast of the SNS production will host a public talkback after the May 21st show.

Although he has been through many opening nights and performances, Lippa said the run at the Garden Theater holds a special meaning for him.

"I love those folks," said Lippa, who moved to Columbus in 2017, "They helped me get through the pandemic and I even proposed to my husband (Tom Regouski) on New Year's Eve in 2020 (after a performance of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER)."

THE WILD PARTY also holds a special place in Lippa's heart as well. The origin of the musical began with a trip to the bookstore.

"(After completing the musical JOHN & JEN), I had no idea what I was going to do next," Lippa said. "I went into a Barnes & Nobles and looked for some poetry that I could turn into songs.

"I saw this skinny book called THE WILD PARTY on the shelf ... and the inside cover was all fuzzy red. I thought any book that has an inside cover like that must be pretty cool. On the next page was a picture of Queenie at her dressing room table and I read the lines, 'Queenie was a blonde whose age stood still. And she danced twice a day in vaudeville.'"

From that moment on, the idea for Lippa's next musical began swirling in his head. It was fresh, original, and filled with complex characters who would be perfect for a musical.

"Little did I know (fellow composer) Michael John LaChiusa was looking over my shoulder," Lippa joked.

Working separately, LaChiusa had discovered the same text and had the same idea as Lippa - turning "The Wild Party" into a musical. Both musicals landed in New York City in 2000. LaChiusa's one-act musical, which starred Mandy Patinkin, Toni Collette, and Eartha Kitt, ran on Broadway from April to June. Lippa's two-act show, which featured Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Brian d'Arcy James, and Julia Murney, had a run of 54 shows off Broadway.

"It was dreadful," Lippa said of discovering LaChiusa was also using the same book for a musical. "This happens in Hollywood all the time. I remember there were two 'viruses kill the world' movies and two movies where gigantic waves wipe out New York City.

"Fortunately, I was far enough into the process of making my musical and producers Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum said, 'we're going to do your show.'

"In the end, that's all you want someone on your team to say. I did that thing that I've always done. I just stood up, put my flag in the sand, and said, 'This is what will happen,' and I just did my best to make it happen."


Lippa has been planting the flag and making things happen wherever he goes since he was a freshman at the University of Michigan. Lippa was roommates with Seller, who went on to produce RENT (1996), AVENUE Q (2003), IN THE HEIGHTS (2008), and HAMILTON (2015). It was Seller, who encouraged Lippa to take his first stab at writing a musical with him.

The result was JACK, THE GIANT KILLER, a 45-minute musical based on the title character of Jack and the Beanstalk fame.

"I've never been a fan of musicals with a comma in the title," he said. "That shows you how little we knew about what we were doing.

"I have a copy of it here on my shelf. I had a colleague of mine here for a retreat and I pulled it down. We wanted to see if I sounded like myself back then. There were terrible songs ... but they sounded like me."

Lippa's professors, Brent Wagner and William Bolcom, a National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and Grammy Award winner, would disagree. After hearing Lippa's first attempt at writing a musical, the two encouraged the novice to keep writing and working.

"It was one of those wonderful moments when your professors say, 'Hey look over here,'" Lippa said.

"I tell students that making musicals is the hardest thing I know how to do. And that's why I do it. I think we should do hard things in this world."

Since 1995, Lippa has continued to do the hard thing: make songs and musicals with a great amount of success. The cast soundtrack for JOHN & JEN has been released four times ("Having it done once is a miracle; they usually don't release a cast recording of the same show four times until after you're dead," Lippa said with a chuckle). Lippa's THE ADDAMS FAMILY (2009) earned him a Tony nomination, has been recorded in three different languages, and is the top musical in licensing. His musical, BIG FISH (2013), also landed on Broadway.

Additionally, Lippa was commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver to write an anthem to celebrate Israel's 50th birthday. He even did the vocal arrangements as well as performed on the songs on the animated film PRINCE OF EGYPT and provided songs for Nick Junior's WONDER PETS.

And yet, Lippa remembers being crippled by doubt when he was starting out.

When asked what was the biggest thing he had to overcome in his career, Lippa didn't hesitate to say: "Self-hatred. There was this voice that would come to me for decades saying I wasn't good enough, I wasn't going to be successful, and that I wasn't valued.

"Isn't age wonderful in some ways? Now, I look at those doubts and I know I shed most of that crap. I am glad I had it because it fueled my artistic life."

Get your tickets today at www.cbusarts.com or call 614-469-0939. Single tickets ranging $37 - $55, student rush tickets for $20, and pay what you want tickets are available. Showtimes are 7pm Thursdays through Saturdays and 2pm Sundays May 11- 28. Join us for your own wild party at the Opening Night Reception Friday May 12th following the performance! Learn more at Click Here.


Review: JACKSON BROWNE at Palace Theater Photo
Review: JACKSON BROWNE at Palace Theater

What did our critic think of JACKSON BROWNE at Palace Theater?

Review: LAST SUMMER ON EARTH at Kemba Live! Amphitheater Photo
Review: LAST SUMMER ON EARTH at Kemba Live! Amphitheater

What did our critic think of LAST SUMMER ON EARTH at Kemba Live! Amphitheater?

Feature: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at Ohio Theatre Photo
Feature: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at Ohio Theatre

Actor Justin Mark doesn’t remember reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD when he was in high school. Now he’s living in an English teacher’s twisted, TWILIGHT ZONEish fantasy, as he performed in the Harper Lee classic over 500 times in the last two years.

CAPA Announces Music Headliners for 2023 FESTIVAL LATINO Photo
CAPA Announces Music Headliners for 2023 FESTIVAL LATINO

CAPA has announced the lineup of international artists that will headline Festival Latino 2023 presented by Honda. The family-friendly, free event will be held Saturday and Sunday, August 12 and 13, from 11 am-8 pm each day in downtown Columbus' Genoa Park. Festivalgoers can enjoy music, food, children's activities, art, and dance from the heart of Latin America.


#repshow# in #getregions.name[i]# A Real Boy by Jeff Downing
Abbey Theater of Dublin (10/19-10/28)
#repshow# in #getregions.name[i]# The Inheritance PART 2 by Matthew Lopez
Abbey Theater of Dublin (9/21-9/30)
#repshow# in #getregions.name[i]# The Dinner Detective Comedy Mystery Dinner Show
The Dinner Detective Columbus (6/17-6/17)
#repshow# in #getregions.name[i]# The Dinner Detective Comedy Mystery Dinner Show
The Dinner Detective Columbus (7/29-7/29)
#repshow# in #getregions.name[i]# The Inheritance PART 1 by Matthew Lopez
Abbey Theater of Dublin (9/07-9/16)
#repshow# in #getregions.name[i]# The Dinner Detective Comedy Mystery Dinner Show
The Dinner Detective Columbus (6/24-6/24)

Recommended For You