Full immersion theatre
Going ‘Wild’ at the IDL
“Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party” cast members
“I’m always looking for new ways to make theatre interesting for our audiences,” says Theatre Pops artistic director Meghan Hurley. She calls her approach to Andrew Lippa’s musical, “immersive dinner theatre.”
Those attending the Theatre Pops production of “Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party,” running February 17-26 at the IDL Ballroom, will find actors interspersed with the audience rather than on a stage. Attendees will feel immersed in the rowdy world of the play—the underbelly of 1920s New York City—and its shady characters—like Eddie the Thug and Dolores the Hooker. To enhance the atmosphere, audience members are welcome to come dressed in styles of the era.
The musical is based on the 1928 book-length poem by Joseph Moncure March, which was presumed lost until published as a graphic novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and illustrator, Art Spiegelman (“Maus,” “The Shadow of Two Towers”). The poem is a hardboiled Jazz Age tale told in syncopated rhyming couplets. It is the story of Queenie (Tabitha Littlefield), a flapper of easy virtue, and her lover, Burrs (Rick Harrelson), at a point when their relationship has become increasingly unstable.
March’s simple style provides a solid foundation for the show’s songs, such as the opening line of the poem: “Queenie was a blonde and her age stood still,/And she danced twice a day in vaudeville.”
The 1928 book received mixed reviews but achieved widespread success. One of the most positive responses was from fellow author and editor Louis Untermeyer, who said, “It is repulsive and fascinating . . . and unremittingly powerful. It is an amazing tour de force.”
The story has remained popular to the degree that two separate versions were produced in 2000. The Lippa musical won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. A different version, by Michael John LaChiusa, ran on Broadway at the same time, garnering seven Tony nominations but winning none.
“The story has always been fascinating to me,” Hurley said. “The characters were almost speaking to the audience.”
Her choice was to close the gap between viewer and performer. The production style will create a feeling that the audience is actually at a very wild party.
Attendees may reserve seats for the show but also for a special preshow four-course meal, created by Ludger’s Catering, along with specially crafted drinks by IDL bartenders.
For more from Michael, read his article on Tulsa Ballet’s ‘Dorothy and the Prince of Oz.’