Review: REVIEW: THE WILD PARTY at Garden Theater

SNS production swirls perfect music, voices and set design into a stunning performance

By: May. 15, 2023
Review: REVIEW: THE WILD PARTY at Garden Theater
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Pity Jordan Goodsell.

In the movies, the audiences are taught to fear clowns; in the wake of HAMILTON and handful of other musicals, theater goers should know not to trust people named Burr. Goodsell plays the villain, a vaudeville clown named Burrs, in Short North Stage's production of Andrew Lippa's THE WILD PARTY.

Goodsell and Blair Baker (who plays Queenie) are the focal points of a love spider web for the two-act, two-hour, 20-minute musical set in the Roaring Twenties. The dynamic, engaging musical runs May 11-28 at the Garden Theater (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus).
Based on a book-length poem by Joseph Moncure March
, the musical weaves together the doomed love story of Queenie and Burrs, two performers on the vaudeville circuit who fall passionately in and out of love with each other. Queenie devises a plan to have a party as a way of making her lover jealous and perhaps more attentive to her needs.

However, fueled by cocktails, cocaine, coercion, and conspiracy, this gathering swirls wildly out of control.

Even those in the audience who don't fear clowns or people named Burr can see Queenie and Burrs are stuck in a "can't live with the other/can't live without the other" relationship.

Goodsell's brooding tenor and jealous glances and Baker's tempestuous soprano voice and flirtatious winks provide the ingredients for a lethal, intoxicating potion. Composer Andrew Lippa describes the relationship between the two perfectly in the couple's duet, "What Is It About Her?" -- What is it about her?/ What is it about him...That mixes passion with pride?/That holds me here?

Those conflicted feelings reach an apex midway through the first act. The audience is introduced to Kate (Lisa Glover) and her boyfriend of the moment Black (Kendrick Mitchell). Black is drawn to Queenie like a moth is pulled to a bug lamp. Seizing this opportunity, Kate hopes to draw in Burrs into her own web.

Glover brings out her character's social-climbing, opportunistic tendency, especially in the ballad "Look at Me." Mitchell highlights Black's shielding disposition leading up to the confrontations with the abusive Burrs.

If it was just those four actors on a barren stage, THE WILD PARTY would still have been an engaging performance. However, director Dionysia Williams provides careful brushstrokes to complete the portrait of the Roaring Twenties gone wrong.

Scenic designer Edward Carignan centers the action of his three-floor set with a supersized picture frame that cracked at the top. The party increases in intensity as the action spreads from the ground floor to a restroom on the second to the couple's bedroom on the top of the stage.
Director Eric Alsford (piano), TK Leonard (trumpet), William Mayer (drums), Drew Steadman (guitar), and Tom Regouski, Logan Moore and Billy Wolfe (all on reeds) are in the back of the center stage. The orchestra keeps THE WILD PARTY's catchy score on track without overshadowing the performers.

In the most delightful way, the supporting cast makes watching this musical like being at a bar with 40 different televisions showing conflicting activities. One could track a character throughout the show and see something each night. Among the highlights:

· Rachel Hertenstein is a Marlene Dietrich-like scene stealer as Madelaine True. Her performance of "An Old Fashion Love Story" provides a much needed tension breaker.

· "Two of a Kind," which highlights the difference and similarities between ditsy Mae (Shelby Zimmerman) and her meat headed boxer boyfriend Eddie (Brandon Newbright), offers another soothing respite to the escalating anxiety.

· As the anxiety reaches a crescendo in the second act, Jeff Fouch's beautifully choreographed and executed ballet in "Jackie's Last Dance" gives the audience its final breather before the show's chaotic ending.

Like any party guest steps into the light of an unfamiliar host's living room, many of the audience may have entered the Garden Theater not knowing what to expect from THE WILD PARTY. Few, if any, left disappointed. Although the show challenges the viewer with uncomfortable themes of violence, sex, and drug usage, many viewers (myself included) walked away knowing they had seen something gritty, powerful and real as well as increased fear of clowns and Burrs.

Coming up next: a musical about actor Raymond Burr and Pennywise?

Get your tickets today at 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. Learn more at


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