BWW Interview: Theatre Baton Rouge Hosts WILDest Party of The Year

BWW Interview: Theatre Baton Rouge Hosts WILDest Party of The Year
From left to right - Marion Bienvenu, Ren Price, Kate Gulotta, Austin Ventura. Photo by Megan Collins

Theatre Baton Rouge will proudly present Andrew Lippa's THE WILD PARTY directed by Lily McGill from August 16-25!

A steamy prohibition tale, Lippa's THE WILD PARTY is based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 narrative poem of the same name which features one of the most exciting, pulse-racing scores ever heard.

Lovers Queenie and Burrs decide to throw the party-to-end-all-parties in their Manhattan apartment. Once their slew of guests arrives, Queenie's wandering eyes land on a striking man named Black. As the decadence reaches its climax, so does Burrs' jealousy, which erupts and sends him into a violent rage. Gun in hand and inhibitions abandoned, Burrs turns on Queenie and Black. The gun gets fired, but who's been shot?

The cast features Katelyn Gulotta as Queenie, Austin Ventura as Burrs, Marion Bienvenu as Kate, Ren Price as Black, Scott Mitchell as Eddie, Libby Judice-Smith as Mae, Chad Harleson as Sam, Savannah Chiasson as Madelaine True, Brandon Guillory as Phil D'Armano, Jonathan Thomas as Oscar D'Armano, Rebecca Smith as Nadine, Tony Collins as Jackie and Thomas Jackson as Max. Rounding out the ensemble are Camille DeMars, Kristi-Anne Lyons, Dustin Gonzales, Carley Magette, Hannah Papizan, and Megan Rodgers. sat down with McGill to talk about the score, how the time period affects the show, and to see how this WILD PARTY pushes the envelope for Theatre Baton Rouge. What drew you to this show?

McGill: So, I've known of the show for about 10 years. I never thought I would get to do it, but I've been listening to it for a long time. My voice teacher many moons ago assigned me a song from it and so I learned the song, and it was such a gorgeous but kind of tragic song. I looked up the musical and started reading the plot and then listened to the whole album and...I just became like a big fan of the show. But because some of the themes are so dark, and it does get violent, I think the show doesn't get as many productions as it probably deserves. I didn't really think I was ever going to get to work on it. So, when we started discussing the possibility of doing the show I kind of latched onto it immediately. It's always been one of those bucket lists dream shows for me, absolutely.

BWW: How does this show push the envelope for TBR?

McGill: There are a lot of ways honestly. I think the show is challenging because it really leaves it up to each audience member to decide who they're rooting for and who is the hero or the protagonist - if there is one - and all of the characters have these agendas and some of the agendas have some sinister energy to them. I think the show keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing as far as 'who I'm rooting for, what do I want to happen,' and you find yourself having some odd feelings. I think the sexuality in the show pushes the envelope for TBR and even for our City Series. Sex is such a big part of the show and how that brings people together and can tear people apart is a huge theme. And domestic violence is something we don't always see onstage so the violence may also be surprising for people.

BWW: Does the time period affect the events in this show?

McGill: I think the central plot and the relationship that is happening could happen at any time, but I do think the time period adds to the show because of this idea in the '20s of living free and being yourself and almost pushing that too far...and how it leads to some people's destruction. Like heading into the Great Depression, and the idea of overdoing it in every sense of the word. Some of these characters have gotten to the point where they're just so indulgent that it's becoming destructive, so I feel like that really does connect to the '20s.

BWW: What can you tell us about the score?

McGill: The score is complex but amazing. There are a lot of different styles. Of course, the prevailing style of the show is jazz, but it also has some rock influences which come in unexpectantly. It becomes a rock-jazz opera almost. It's cool, it's not like elevator jazz. It's really most of the time a cool, up-tempo, kind of dance jazz. It's exciting. And the changing tempos and some of the chords and the dissonance all add to this very dark, very edgy world. And then you also have some songs where the tempo slows for a while and you have some gorgeous piano-driven ballads that are almost like the Blues. So, it's interesting how there are so many mixed genres.

BWW: In one word, what would you say this show is about?

McGill: Passion. The characters are boiling over with their passion for one another. Sometimes that gets expressed as intense affection, and sometimes it takes a darker turn.

BWW: How are relationships examined in Wild Party?

I will say it's cool to see there's a lot of diversity in the relationships that are presented. Interestingly within this community of urban entertainers in the '20s, there actually was a resurgence of people being accepting of whatever lifestyle people liked to live and very fluid sexuality. So, there are a lot of different relationships in that respect. But the main relationship between Queenie and Burrs is the centerpiece of the show. It is about a party, but it's about their relationship and what the future is going to look like for them. I think the biggest thing with them is that their relationship is what happens when you fall in love with a person who you're not actually compatible with. What happens when you deeply love someone even though they are doing things that are destructive to themselves, destructive to you, and destructive to other people and there's that temptation to stay even though you know you should leave. It's a head versus heart thing, which I think everyone in some form can relate to.

BWW: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

McGill: When the four principals sing "Poor Child" and "Listen to Me" together. "Listen to Me," - which was not on the cast recording and was new to our ears - is beautifully complex. All four principal characters sing together in this very cool way that ebbs and flows, but my other favorite part is actually when the four of them sing together in Act 1's "Poor Child." It's the most beautiful quartet, and it goes right to the heart of each character.

BWW: How are the cast and crew enjoying the production? Anything else you'd like to add?

McGill: They really are loving it. Because so much of the show deals with sexual situations and violence I spent a lot of time, in the beginning, making sure the cast was establishing trusting and respectful relationships with each other. When it came to things like consent and building these very physical moments, we really had a lot of time to spend together and create this community of trust and I think that has parleyed into every moment of the show. They feel like they're part of an accepting community. I can really see they enjoy working together. I really can't phrase them enough, but especially the four principals (Gulotta, Ventura, Bienvenu, and Price), they've had an especially huge challenge because none of the characters are easy. They each have complex arcs, so they've worked hard, and I have to give a shout out to them.

THE WILD PARTY is rated R for sexual violence and situations, drug use and language. Tickets can be purchased by visiting

General admission: $31 Adults | $20 Students

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From This Author Tara Bennett