Friday, May 02, 2008

The Wild Party

Live on Stage
May 2 - 31, 2008

Review by Followspot:

Its rare to find a musical where the leads can sing AND act, but Wild Party pulls it off. The unfortunate exception, Clarence Mickens, with his extraordinary voice, can't quite make us forget he can't act. Erin Charles (Queenie) and the best dancing chorus this year are the real stars.


jerryketel said...

I have had the unique pleasure of seeing the rehearsals (first time ever). I have to be extremely honest about this: I think this will be a terrific show. The songs are great, the singing superb and the choreography wonderful. This is going to be a big surprise for little 'ol Portland.

Jerry Ketel

Anonymous said...

sparkling direction.
erin charles is a goddess.
and she's a triple threat.
storm large better watch her back.

todd hermanson is a revelation.
amazing energy.

the choreography is inspired -- super.

and the band is hot.

a remarkable, remarkable show.

it has that spark.

Anonymous said...

This show is very good. Truly for mature audiences, but you still should come (leave your kids at home). It is hot, and music is great, and the cast has tons of energy.

Very good show, but the price is high ($27!). Worth it.

Anonymous said...

Not the perfect show. Not bad either. Some sequences lack a real sense of direction and some scenes that are meant to be climactic are anything but. Mostly this seems to be the fault of unspecific direction and odd staging. Additionally a dance chorus that seems fairly capable is given fairly little to do...BUT there is some real talent at work here.

The band is dead on, making a rather difficult score sound easy and, quite amazingly, following the actors seamlessly through unexpected tempo changes and sound difficulties.

Kelly Stewart is scrappy, hilarious, and perfectly cast. A huge and boisterous performance from such a small lady!

There are some real standouts in the chorus. Among them: an hysterical Megan Carver playing an underage party-goer; Anne Hargreaves' show-stealing and ear-pleasing lesbian diatribe; and a few moments of truly hot dancing. If only the choreography throughout lived up to these moments of promise.

But the real star here is Erin Charles. Portland hasn't seen (or rather, heard) a voice like this in quite sometime. She carries the show with a (for lack of a better term) balls-to-the-wall performance that seriously shakes your seat. And, to be honest, turns you on. She's sultry, impassioned, and fragile all at once. And heartbreaking. And oh...that voice. I can't wait to see her (and some of her cast members) work with a director/choreographer who knows how to truly utilize her talents.

Overall the show is not bad, but with so much talent on stage it is a shame it isn't constantly sizzling.

Anonymous said...

The "Buy Tickets" link on web site not working.

Would be good to have displayed somewhere when the show is on, i.e., what days of week? Is it every day at 8:00 PM?

M said...


Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, a musical based on the epic poem by Joseph Moncure March, is as randy and provocative as the original story that was banned in the 1920's.

The play has all the elements of a good book. The music and lyrics are at turns forceful and tender, vaudevillian and sublime. Why then does this Live On Stage production fizzle and pop when it should sizzle and stop the hearts of the audience?

This not to say that the production isn't satisfying. Erin Charles as Queenie commands the stage in a subtle performance that would make any actress worth her salt pine for this star-turning role. Todd Hermason does a yeoman's job as Burrs, the vindictive clown. Lisamarie Harrison sings her heart out while she vamps across the stage in what would normally be a show stopping number, the Juggernaught. I say would be because it doesn't--but not for lack of trying on the part of the actress.

There are pieces of this production that are spectacular. Unfortunately, the sum is less than the equal of those parts. There are a few small reasons for this. The lighting design is lacking as is the set design. The band, while seemingly effortless in its muscularity overpowers the vocals at times, draining the emotion of the stage. The choreography by Robert Guitron is both occasionally superb and then comically expected. However, these are small quibbles, the principal reason the show shows it's seams is in the direction. John Ouels deserves accolades for staging such an ambition production but his attention seems to be on the component pieces instead of having a cohesive vision for the entire show.

Having said all this, I would encourage you to see the show. It is a production that is worth every penny. It shows just how talented our musical theater community is in Portland and it bodes well for a burgeoning scene in years to come.


jerryketel said...

Update: Opening night.

Erin Charles as Queenie fulfilled her promise as one of Portland's budding young stars. Todd Hermason adds the right touch of menace to the role of Burrs. Lisamarie Harrison sashays across the stage as if she owns it--and she does in the Juggernaught number. That is she would if the sound were right! The band, while more than merely professional, made it ever so clear that there was a mic problem this night (I've heard they fixed it).

Love the choreography, the dancers are well rehearsed. Anne Hargreaves as Madeline gives a comic turn as the Madam. The Boxer and his girlfriend (sorry kids, don't have the program in front of me) are a delight to watch. CJ Mickens as Black sings like an angel. And there are plenty of other good reasons to see the show.

You won't be wasting your money. Just don't waste time. It's only open 'til the end of the month.

Anonymous said...

Holy Moley! This show is HOT!!

The girls, the guys, whatever your preference, this is one smoking production.

OK, everyone talks about Erin Charles. But isn't she supposed to be good in this? If she isn't at least passable then the show sucks.

I think the unmentioned gem in this staging is Lisamarie Harrison as Kate. Va Va Voom! What a set of pipes! This girl can wail! And wail she does. So how come the rest of the cast isn't connecting with HER?? Hey director! Can someone find me a director!!??!! Is there a director in the house??

Loads of talent in this show, LOADS OF IT.

But that Lisamarie, "Honey, what your number?" Just scratch it in the men's room at the Low Brow. I'll be waitin'.

RoycePDX said...

Wow, wonderful production of this gem of an off-Broadway musical. I know the music but was so thrilled to finally see it staged. Charles and Hermanson were amazing as Queenie and Burrs, the do not disappoint.

The production looked beautiful. I liked that the director moved the show along and kept the focus on the story told with lovely voices and top notch acting (as followspot noted). We move from scene to scene deftly and a very big show is craftily packaged in the intimate Trade Center Theatre.

Kudos to Live On Stage, truly the company to watch.

Anonymous said...

Erin Charles is a tall drink of water on a texas hot day...

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything said by "M", 5/5/08. But they must fix the sound issues, or the audience won't have a clue what's happening in the second act (I had to do an Internet search after the show to figure it out, and to fill in the rest of the blanks that I couldn't hear!). And Black needs desperately to make some kind of connection with Queenie because her gorgeous ballad falls flat when she he's not emotionally present for her. And what's with the Lesbian - she sort of appears, sings this song that seems like it was supposed to be funny, but really wasn't, and then disappears. Not sure if it was her issue, or the director's, but she needs to connect to the rest of the show somehow. Anyway, thanks M, for a well penned review.

Amy said...

I loved this production. Saw it opening night. Didn't know what to expect, and all I can say is it delivered: HOT! Great songs, great singing, great costumes. And the choreography totally rocked. There were goosebump moments. A wild party, indeed.


Sheila ~ said...

Saw the show opening night. Definatley a mic problem and I hope for future audiences that it was fixed. As I was not happy to have only heard Lisa Marie Harrison's powerful vocals in one number due to a mic issue. Not the error of the performer. That's what Tech week is for not opening night.

The show was entertaining. Lisa Marie added a flare of personality and sang as great as she always does. She has great stage presence. Her first number was fantastic, but again due to mic issues I didn't get to hear her other pieces as well. But she still looked good and gave us a believable performance. BRAVO!

Erin Charles showed a new level of her talent, way to go Erin! Her performances along side Todd Hermason was strong and convincing. The duo worked very well together and the chemistry was there. And Kelly Stewart - Funny, the band was dead on!

If you are looking for a night out, then Wild Party would be a good place to start. And the above mentioned are well worth the ticket cost.

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege to see the show opening night. Despite some mic issues, I was able to follow the story. The singing was remarkable; Erin, CJ, Lisa Marie and Todd rocked the house. The lesbian ditty was a ray of light within the darkness of the plot. For as small as that stage was, the choreography was brilliant. The band, although occasionally louder than the crooners, was marvelous. The highlight was Kelly and Colin's "Two of a Kind"... sassy. Don't miss it!

Carrie said...

I had a great time on opening night. Sound was a big issue, but Lisamarie SIZZLED with her amazing pipes and vampy moves. Erin and Todd had superb chemistry - you can't take your eyes off of them. And kudos to the phenomenal band - way to go! This was one hot night out...

Anonymous said...

i thought this was an excellent show. erin was very impressive in the lead and the entire cast was on the mark the whole show, but lisamarie commanded the stage with her presence and stole the show with her solos.

Anonymous said...

I saw the show last night and thought it was great. Erin and Todd are spectacular, and the whole cast is committed. Lisamarie has tons of energy and a big ol' voice, that's for sure- but needs to take the "go on girl" head swivel down a notch. I thought the costumes looked really beautiful, and as for the choreography - I thought it was generally ok, some really great moments, some "eh" moments. What I thought was weird was that it made the non dancers look more like dancers than the 'dancers'. Neat trick. Wonderful evening, I highly recommend it. (-:

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I really didn't enjoy this show at all. Erin Charles was wonderfull, the band was great. That is about it. I feel that one of the leads was to old for their part, and someone really needs to fix the sound. I would not pay that amount to see a show of this quality in the future.

Anonymous said...

I saw the show opening night and WOW. I have to ask the question... What is Erin Charles doing in Portland(not that I dont love our fine city)? Why is she not in NY or Chicago? I do hope that someone of clout in the music and/or stage business has the pleasure of seeing her performance. If not, the world will be missing out on some great talent. I loved the show. Way to go Wild Party!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent vocals by Erin. Todd gave a well rounded performance. As far as the rest of the show, this production was just okay. For the money and the hoop-la of a strong cast we were very dissappointed. Ms. Harrison continues to act the same in every show we've seen her in. The ensemble had some nice dance movement considering the small space to work with. Overall this show needs a tad bit more of something. The context of the show is there in the script - Direction? Choreography was done well. Lighting and Sound needs some work. Band loud in some nunbers but overall played well.

Anonymous said...

We saw the show last weekend. Wonderful job Erin and Todd. No doubt that Erin can sing - but can she act? Readers - we definatley mean this in a nice way. Would like to see more of her in other shows where she can have a opprotunity to show us what else she's got. Lisamarie's vocals lacked tone and her smokey lounge club act leaves one hoping she'll change it up a bit in her next show. Some funny moments some harsh moments, but so very well done!

Anonymous said...

You speak of Ms. Harrison giving a similar performance. On the other hand, Todd Hermanson shows something different in each of his performances. I saw him last year in "Where's Charley" playing an older gentleman, who stole scenes with his quirkiness. Next I saw him in "Noises off" where he played the leading man, Todd played him insecure and bumbling. I've never seen such a fresh approach to that character. Mr. Hermanson has an excellent touch with comedy. Now with "The Wild Party" he demonstrates that he can sing very, very well, but he plays an entirely different type of character than previously, a cruel, suffering, jealous, passionate vaudeville clown. A very interesting actor, with tremendous versatility. I wonder why he doesn't work constantly?

Anonymous said...

It's like I saw a different show than you all! I think what's happening here is that theater people LOVE it -- and I agree that the singing is good and the actors look like they're having a LOT of fun up there -- but it's a pretty stupid play with a substandard score. I predict that people who are in the theater, and/or who enjoy the thrill of good individual performances, will love it. People who go to the theater to see (and hear) a great story unfold will be sorely disappointed. I went on a Saturday night and the theater was half full... that can't bode well.

Anonymous said...

To add to 5/14 8:44 pm anon, it would appear that many of the posters are either theater folk, cast/crew members, or significant others. I'd like to hear more of what the general theater-goer thinks.

Daniel said...

I'd like to hear more of what the general theater-goer thinks.

5/15/2008 02:01:00 PM


Anonymous said...

The Oregonian picked this show as a Critic's Pick. I have to agree. It's fun to watch and obviously (as the O said) the cast is having a great time.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that everyone seems to think Erin Charles is just now showcasing her talent in Portland. I worked with her in two of Stumptown Stages shows that Kirk Mouser directed, "Reefer Madness" and "Floyd Collins" and she was excellent in both of them.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a "theater person" in that I go to the theater a lot. I'm not really a huge fan of musicals in general, but I have to say that I really loved this show.
I think it's one of the best things I've seen in town this season. Erin Charles is just dynamite but so is the rest of the cast (and the band - Great job band!) The choreography was some of the best work I've ever seen in a local musical and the chorus was fantastic and seriously easy on the eyes (every single one of them - guys and girls alike!) So is there some sort of local award for the hottest looking chorus?

No, there isn't much of a plot, but it's a musical. You want plot, go see a murder mystery. Musicals usually don't have much of a plot. But with singing and dancing like this, who cares!?! Every number is better than the last one and the talent on display is just amazing.

Did I mention there are a lot of really beautiful people on stage in not a lot of clothing? I know that's superficial but come on! It's springtime! Looking at pretty people doing provocative things is one of the reasons we go to the theater. It's about time Portland theater got it's groove back.
Thanks "Wild Party!"
Whew! I need a cigarette.

Anonymous said...

well said anon, 5/17. i'll join in that cigarette, and i don't smoke!!! lol what great fun for spring, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Anonymous said...

Well I'm not a theatre person (whatever that means) or related to the cast. But I do see a lot of theatre in Portland and the only thing worth paying for in this show is Erin Charles' voice. Otherwise its a pretty lackluster evening.

Anonymous said...

Cigarettes, pah!!! Never! But yes, this show is a dynamic hoot. I wasn't that knocked out by the play as written; the plot is so-so, the characters such as make it difficult to care about them, and the songs uneven (some fabulous ballads, a couple terrific ensemble numbers, but lyrics are often trite).

This cast gives it their all, though; can't fault them for anything, really. A huzzah for the chorus, who support the powerful leads really well. Ms. Charles is everything they say: looks, charisma, and a singing voice that handles everything from a cooing whisper to full-out belting with no apparent weak points in her range. Who cares if she can "really act," whateverthehell that means? She acts well enough to put a song and a character across in a show like this, and while lots of other folks can "really act," I can't think of very many who can do what she does here, so cheer her for her strengths, folks. Harrison had the misfortune of wrestling with mike problems the night I saw the show, which was unfortunate, although she has the polish and strength to put a song across without one. At first I thought Hermanson was out of his depth in this trio, but one of his songs midway through the first half (sorry, left my program at home) actually drew my eyes away from Ms. Charles, which is an accomplishment indeed!

So, great show, guys!

Anonymous said...

Um yeah- 2 1/2 hours of show with ZERO plot! God I was bored to tears. So much sex it wasn't sexy if you know what I mean. Yes, some very, very talented folks up there. Erci Charles is a wonderful singer but can someone teach her how to act, same with Black. Hey, glad you can sing it, but I don't buy it! Hermanson is lovely in general but is not scary at all so I don't even buy the premise. Lisa Marie, love her but I've seen it, you play the same character every time honey - and open your mouth when you sing so we can get some sound. And the sound - AWFUL - I can't understand anything of what anyone says. Not an easy show to stay engaged with when you can't hear what anyone's saying. Oh, but yes, I do love me some Anne though, great lesbian lady. This show is a pass, a total pass.....

Anonymous said...

"So much sex it wasn't sexy if you know what I mean"

No, I'm afraid I really don't know what you mean. There's such a thing as too much sex? Or sex that is too sexy? That's news to me. Must suck to get old?

I would get what you meant if this was one of those numerous triangle shows where everybody runs around naked (mostly the guys) and nothing is sexy at all and you feel embarrassed for the actors (at least the ones in the cast you know) and at the end of the evening you feel like you've just spent two hours conducting hernia exams.

No, that is not sexy at all and it is way, way too much "body parts in your face" theater.

But there was no nudity at all in Wild Party. Actually, the actors stay pretty well covered the whole time. I've seen more naked skin at an OBT showcase. Lots of silk teddies and 1920's underwear, but that's about it. Very classy.

The heat really came from the acting. And that's why I think the acting is really quite good, starting with Miss Charles, who is subtle and cool, yet able to unleash a lot of vocal passion when she sings. That is really sexy. Todd Hermanson was dangerous and powerful but also very human and vulnerable and that is also sexy. The fellow who played Black (we all really must learn this poor man's name) had an innocence about him that only a talented young newcomer can provide and combined with an earnest, passionate voice; well that's sexy too. And Lisamarie Harrison played her part with a shell of confidence and bravado that hid the character's pain and desire. True, it is very similar to what she did in Grease and Reefer Madness, but it was still the right choice and still quite well done. I'm not sure we can blame the poor woman for constantly getting typecast as the "whore with a heart of gold". She's a working actress. And yes, Anne's brassy ballsy lesbian had every straight woman and gay man in the audience questioning their orientation. She was just that good.

This show is hot, and it's not all physical. If the cast didn't have the acting skills, whatever physical charms they possessed would have worn off in the first five minutes. Not everyone on the stage had a perfect face or body, and that's not what sexy is about anyway. All the characters showed vulnerability and humanity which is what good acting is about. Combine that with passion and the means, in this case vocal means, to express that passion, and you get sexy, sexy, sexy.

S said...

This is the best thing I've seen out of Portland in a LONG time. As a long time fan of the show, I'd reckon to say that Erin Charles' voice is superior to Julia Murney, who is the Queenie on the off-broadway recording. Todd Hermanson is at the top of his game and brings a real humility to Burrs that often isn't present when actors typically work on making him more horrific than human. Hermanson finds this balance remarkably well, and makes an incredibly effective Burrs. Lisamarie Harrison does a great job with a top notch belt, and I wouldn't expect anything less from her! CJ has a wonderful voice, and brings an interesting and innocent take to Black. The quartet performances are gorgeous with Hermanson, CJ, Charles, and Harrison blending beautifully with one another (when the mics are in working condition, at least.) Hargreaves steals the show with her wonderful performance, and keep an eye out for her interactions with the various women on stage throughout the show as there are some hilarious "subtle" interactions to be witnessed.

Superb band, choreography, and direction. Honestly, a wonderful night out at the theatre, and everyone should go see it next weekend before it closes! Now, if only the sound can be fixed in the space, and the weddings/celebrations disbanded...

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT, but boy do we musical theater people love our drama! It's always funny to see the much higher number of FS comments on musicals versus plays.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to catch the Wild Party closing night, and these folks really brought their A-game. Though the show overall didn't seem to have much depth, a few performances really blew me away.
Erin Charles is astounding as Queenie, her performance was provocative yet vulnerable and beautifully showcased her voice.
Todd Hermanson really gives his all as Burrs. He was disturbing, raw, and truly struck a chord with "Let Me Drown". It was almost painful to watch his descent into insanity.
Immediately, Lisamarie left a bad taste in my mouth, but it was because of her talent. She played the sleazy Kate perfectly.

Overall, this show was definitely worthwhile- I liked the connection to the ensemble through the solo numbers, especially with the dear little redhead and the boxer. Also, Paul's short ballet solo was a nice touch, it added to the relationship of the ensemble perfectly.

Oh, and to whomever was asking why Todd doesn't work constantly-
he's a schoolteacher.

Anonymous said...


Hated the script, didn't care about any of the characters, couldn't recall a single tune after the show.

A couple of good perfromances (Erin and Todd), but not sure what chemistry people are referring to - they both seemed in separate bubbles to me.

Lisamarie is hard to watch - and pitch issues made her signature belt a but hard to take.

Just don't see what the hype is about.

and I AM a musical theatre person!

jerryketel said...

I have a serious problem with thugs on here who make crass, nasty and wholly uninspired critiques of this show and cast without posting their real names. C'mon people, serious critics have bylines for a reason: integrity. If you are going to make comments like the one just posted, then grow a couple and submit your name instead of hiding behind anonymous.

And by the way, there is a reason the Oregonian picked this show as one of last week's Live Five--it's good.

Jerry Ketel