Reviewed by Ksenya Gray
Tuesday 21st February
Reviewer rating:★ ★ ★ ★
The relaunch of St James Theatre as The Other Palace warranted a party and that’s exactly what it got. Starting off the 2017 season under the Artistic Direction of Paul Taylor-Mills, Michael John LaChiusa’s dark and dazzling jazz-age Broadway musical is brought to the London audience. It sadly was short lived on Broadway with only 68 performances.
The Wild Party is set in the prohibition era circa 1920s New York where Queenie (Frances Ruffelle) and her partner/fellow Vaudeville performer Burrs (John Owen-Jones) throw a party for friends and acquaintances filled with booze and drugs to add spice to their mundane lives. Among the guests include an ex boxing champ with his wife; a stripper; a gigolo; an ageing performer still grasping for the spotlight (Donna McKechnie); wannabe producers: Gold and Golberg; and a small town girl who has her eyes set on bright lights of Broadway.
What holds the show together in this new space is the caliber of talent, both from West End veterans and newer faces, and the skillful work of director and choreographer, Drew McOnie, who weaves together the many strands of this complex and difficult musical.
John-Owen Jones was the major stand out of the 15 cast members, successfully giving Burrs a softer edge. Although clearly an abusive and controlling partner to Queenie, the audience can’t help but feel some understanding for the character. In The Heights and Murder Ballad favourite, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as spit firer Kate dominates the stage the moment she enters. Some may argue that she is tad young for the role but her powerhouse vocals compliment Frances Ruffelle’s smoky tones. Donna McKechnie had the audience in the palm of her hands throughout the show, especially with her last number, ‘When It Ends’, a show stopper.
Although a few quivels, The Wild Party is a brilliantly original piece of musical theatre and a great inauguration for The Other Palace.
The show runs until April 1st and you can grab yourself a ticket here: https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/theatre/wild-party/