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A reviews round-up for The Wild Party at The Other Palace

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical theatre house opens with the glitzy UK premiere of Michael John LaChiusa’s Tony nominated The Wild Party.

Directed and choreographed by 2016 Olivier Award winner Drew McOnie, The Wild Party stars Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle, John Owen-Jones and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt.

A viciously dark musical set against a backdrop of 1920’s vaudeville excess, Drew McOnie’s revival has divided critics with The Guardian calling it ‘so frenzied it leaves you exhausted’ and a ‘revival you won’t want an invite to’, TimeOout called it a ‘strange, uncomfortable thing’ yet the Standard commends the ‘bold choreography’, energy and sassy direction from McOnie and Mark Shenton in The Stage was bowled over by the ‘sensational performances’, Soutra Gilmore’s design and McOnie’s choreography and direction.

The Wild Party isn’t your average musical, expect a theme of doom-laden debauchery, bold choreography and live jazz throbbing away in the background.

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Check out the full round up of reviews below.

The Wild Party runs from 11 February 2017 until 1 April 2017 at The Other Palace Theatre.

REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Guardian

“big, blowsy revival you won’t want an invite to…so frenzied it leaves you exhausted”

“Michael John LaChiusa (book, music and lyrics) and George C Wolfe (book) turn it into a big, blowsy show that offers an exhausting miscellany of 1920s musical idioms.

Drew McOnie’s direction and choreography are also so unvaryingly frenzied as to leave one tired without being satisfied.”

“It could work if the songs had room to breathe and if the show didn’t advertise its decadence so strenuously.”

“The cast work with a will. Frances Ruffelle as Queenie floats elegantly through the evening, suggesting there is a lost soul lurking inside her sinuous body.” “

John Owen-Jones as her thuggish lover and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as her poisonous friend are perfectly good, and Donna McKechnie plays a showbiz veteran with poise and grace. But those are qualities in short supply in a musical that becomes monotonous in its unrelenting intensity.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“Some of the dialogue is as exciting as brushing your teeth, and there’s a fair dollop of stodgy exposition. Yet what The Wild Party lacks in story it abundantly makes up for in other departments. Sassily directed by Drew McOnie, it’s packed with bold choreography. The jazzy tunes are energetically performed by Theo Jamieson’s eight-piece band, and the score has moments of feral unpredictability.”

“Frances Ruffelle is a slippery, throaty, vampish Queenie, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt smoulders as her snakelike best friend Kate. But in truth the whole cast is rivetingly committed, with Dex Lee, Donna McKechnie and Lizzy Connolly providing especially striking support.”

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Stage

“The show is driven by ecstatic, elastic movement from director/choreographer Drew McOnie that perfectly complements its restless, relentless narrative journey. A stunning cast of musical theatre veterans, including not one but two Tony winners, and younger performers bring each character to bracing and bruising life.”

“Frances Ruffelle lives up to the description of Queenie’s age seeming to stand still, looking no different to when she originated the role of Eponine nearly 32 years ago; only her voice is now more smoky. As her partner Burrs, John Owen-Jones brings that magnificent voice of his into full play for a great nervous breakdown of a song How Many Women in the World?”

“There are also sensational contributions from Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Queenie’s best friend and rival Kate and Simon Thomas as Kate’s boyfriend Black whom Queenie becomes infatuated by.”

“The show-within-the-show element is amplified by having Theo Jamieson’s tremendous band constantly in view on the upper platform of Soutra Gilmour’s set, offering a view of the vaudeville stage and fire escapes behind it. It is lit in gorgeous golden hues by Richard Howell.”

Mark Shenton, The Stage

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STAR RATING Time Out

“As a statement of intent, ‘The Wild Party’ is an intriguing one. It’s fiercely, viciously dark and lacks any real plot. This is not a mainstream musical; it’s not an easy sell to your casual punter hankering after a catchy tune. It’s the kind of show you stage when you want to say: ‘we’re going to be mixing things up.”

“a strange, uncomfortable thing. Its scenes of domestic violence and attempted assault sit uneasily with the ‘big-number’ approach to the songs and staging. The flicks into broad humour are often whiplashing. There’s a ton of energy pouring out of this production, but somehow it never feels as feverishly grotesque as the world of this show demands.”

Tom Wicker, TimeOut

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STAR RATING The Independent

“LaChiusa’s take on the material gives a dazzling, dizzying, darkly comic edge to the debauchery and a sizzling sense of coked-up horniness that should set off police sirens.”

“The dialogue may start to get on your nerves with its unrelenting bitchiness but the gorgeous jazz score – played to perfection by Theo Jamieson’s smoking-hot eight piece band – is full of raunchy wit and rage and rue. McOnie’s knock-out choreography helps to mask the show’s problems as a piece of drama – a first half that feels too much like a variety bill of back-stories and an unravelling in the second half that suffers from the fact that, to my mind, the show doesn’t keep regular enough tabs on the central pair.”

Paul Taylor

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