‘The Wild Party’ brings Roaring ’20s to life


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

The Roaring ’20s musical “The Wild Party” is set to premiere Friday. The show’s composer, Andrew Lippa, will be in the audience for opening night.

Hayley Glatter, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Jealousy, sex, addiction and music are on tap at The Barber Theatre, and all of Northwestern is invited to the celebration.

“The Wild Party,” a Roaring ’20s musical inspired by a poem of the same name, premieres Friday, and the show’s director and choreographer, Tommy Rapley, is looking forward to sharing the experience with an audience.

“They can expect to feel like they are at a great party with the actors and they should expect lots of beautiful things, and ugly things and scary things and amazing sound and beautiful light,” Rapley said. “It’s a visual feast.”

The show, which Rapley said is a tragedy, unfolds around Queenie, a woman who falls in love with two men and eventually loses them both.

“It’s based on a 1920s poem, kind of about the underbelly of society — prostitutes and Vaudeville performers and the like,” Rapley said. “And so there’s plenty of sin and hedonism in the play. There’s a lot of what I think of people who are good people in dire circumstances who don’t always make the right choice.”

One aspect of the show is unique is its large cast, Rapley said. The 22-person company is always occupying the stage in its entirety, an effect the show’s composer Andrew Lippa said leaves no room for characters to hide.

“It was always important to me that the characters feel trapped, claustrophobic, in the room,” Lippa said. “That the environment doesn’t make it easy for them to be secretive from one another. What they’re doing in private is done in public.”

Lippa, whose works have earned critical acclaim including Grammy and Tony award nominations, has a working relationship with NU and will be attending opening night of the show. He has returned to Evanston nearly every summer, and his musical “Asphalt Beach” premiered on campus nearly 10 years ago.

Lippa’s impressive pedigree adds some additional pressure to opening night.

“It’s terrifying frankly,” actor Zachary Freier-Harrison said. “I think we all wish he would come on the second or third weekend so we have a little more time to lay back into the show. It makes me pretty nervous because he’s one of the foremost composers in musical theater right now. … From his perspective, I’m sure he doesn’t have particularly high expectations from college students, but there’s the dream in the back of your head that he’ll be awe-inspired and he’ll hire you for his next show.”

In the show, Freier-Harrison portrays Mr. Black, a character who works at a nightclub. For the School of Communication junior, the part has not always been easy. Because of the large ensemble, Freier-Harrison said he has enjoyed and struggled with the liberty of making a lot of character decisions.

“I’ve played other characters who are closer to myself or much farther from myself instead of a different version of myself,” Freier-Harrison said. “So I can either be me saying the lines or just someone completely different. This is basically a cooler version of myself, which is challenging.”

Though Freier-Harrison is anxious about performing for Lippa, the composer is looking forward to seeing the show. Not only are the actors closer in age to the characters, but also, he said, the freshness college students bring to the performance is captivating.

“Many people start to explore their sexuality in college, and this is about sexuality gone incredibly rancid,” Lippa said. “It’s an opportunity in a safe environment to explore chaotic sexual and emotional relationships. I think college students bring a certain recklessness and abandon to ‘The Wild Party’ that is infectious.“

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