REVIEW: THE WILD PARTY
at The Denver Center
by Emilee Hatfield
It isn’t everyday that you get to walk into a 1920’s style apartment, accompanied by a great band; and an array of party goers dressed to the nines in their suits and pearls all ready for another cup of gin. Clearly I and the small audience were in for a memorable night at the Off Center’s production of THE WILD PARTY that opened it’s door to all movers and shakers of Denver at the Stanley Marketplace in Stapleton.
This isn’t your typical production; in fact it’s hard to describe exactly the phenomenon that Amanda Berg Wilson created for the dappers and flappers of the Denver Metro area. Going in you are welcomed into a very calm low-lit cabaret setting that allows you to mingle with your fellow audience members just before the show begins. This creates a connection that you normally don’t get within the typical theatre seating arrangement. Yes, you normally speak to the person beside you, but here.. you almost feel encouraged to do so, much like you are encouraged to come dressed in your best 1920’s attire.
Once the band strikes up, we are greeted by the party, as they introduce our leading lady and host, Queenie (Emily Van Fleet); a glamorous dancer whose age stands still and she dances twice a day in vaudeville. With her at the helm there is never a dull moment as she captures all the glitz and glamour that leads you to follow her and her slick friends into her apartment for a shindig her and her rough clownish boyfriend Burrs (Drew Horwitz) are throwing.
The apartment is simply that, an actual apartment with such intricate 20’s decorum that that was the moment I lost sense of reality. I felt from that point on that I was really at a party in the roaring 20s, and to be honest I didn’t want to leave. The actors do their best to make you feel comfortable, even teaching you bits of dance moves to ensure that when you are encouraged you can dance along. Even though I am not a good dancer, (Really….I dont have a rhythmic bone in my body) I still found myself attempting to dance along with my fellow partygoers.
By the time intermission rolls around you begin to feel the hazy excitement beginning to wear off. However the actors hang around during the intermission to have a chat leaving you with a whole new buzz rushing through your body. This was where I found myself speaking with none other than Mr. Goldberg (Wayne Kennedy), one of the wannabe producers that soon will be moving up town with his business partner Gold; this party being his last before the move. I was given his business card during our conversation as he informed me they were in need of a writer. That attention to detail is spellbinding to me. Putting this much effort into a show and dedication into a character brought such a smile to my face. It these small touches that keep the unique experience going, not allowing you for a moment to step out of it. While roaming the set during intermission, you are the ability to pick a different view from the next half of the party; something upon which I highly recommend.
After intermission, the band strikes up again, and Queenie’s party takes a turn as she gets better acquainted with one of her guests, Mr. Black (who is a friend of her one of her “best friends,” Kate). The second act definitely has a very different tone than the first act and there is definitely much more gin. It is important to know Queenie loves to make sure her guests are taken care of and always has a drink in hand.
It is at this point that the show delves further into the true characters of the partygoers we have come to know, and what dark impulses they are capable of. Personally I believe both acts balance very well off of each other. You get both sides of every party you have probably encountered in your life, whether it be good or bad. As the events begin to unfold and the party unravel, the actors keep your attention as the smooth music continues until Queenie’s final words.
Through all of this I still struggle to find the right words to describe this amazing work of art. This show is much more than a production, much more than an experience. It was almost like living in a time capsule. For over two hours, I was taken away from the modern world and transported to the extravagant and scandalous dappers and flappers of Queenie’s world and I could not get enough. Director Amanda Berg Wilson, as well as the Set Designer Jason Sherwood and the entire production team did an absolutely amazing job at creating a unique experience to a show that originally wasn’t staged to be such an immersive concept.
I don’t think I can recommend this show enough to everyone. I left wishing that theatre did this take on a musical more often than they do. It breaks down the barriers of what theatre is capable of producing, and shows people have not had much experience with can just get lost in the 1920’s. All I can say is, I am glad I joined The Wild Party and want to go again!
THE WILD PARTY is immersing audiences now until October 31st at the Stanley Marketplace in Stapleton. Tickets and information are available by calling 303-893-4100 or online at https://www.wildpartydenver.com/
PHOTO CREDIT: AdamsVisCom