Another show, another opening. On Friday we put The Wild Party in front of an audience for the first time. I feel that usual combination of excitement and terror. Mostly though, I’m just delighted to share this massive show and its incredible cast with Toronto.
The Wild Party itself has a dramatic history: the original 1928 poem was nationally banned for its risque content, and two different musicals inspired by the poem, both called The Wild Party, both opened in New York City in 2000 (considered to be the first time in Broadway history that’s ever happened). As such, I thought it appropriate to share a few little known – and hopefully interesting – facts about our production of The Wild Party and its own unusual and winding path to arrive at the Berkeley Theatre stage.
1. This is the fourth time Acting Up Stage has programmed The Wild Party, but the first time it will end up onstage. We wanted to do The Wild Party in 2008, but we ultimately couldn’t afford to do it. We came very close to co-producing it with another company in the fall of 2010, but that opportunity ultimately fell through. We had it slotted for the winter of 2014 – even had two days of auditions booked to begin casting – but ultimately it had to be postponed. And now here we are. It was really a thrill to finally sign that royalty agreement after so many false starts!
2. The Wild Party was green-lit later than any of our previous shows. We had another show that we were planning on producing and had to make alternate arrangements towards the end of June. This gave us less than eight months from confirmation to opening night – significantly less than usual! Thankfully, because it’s a project that we had been exploring for many years (see point #1), we were able to make this shorter timeline work.
3. This is the third production of The Wild Party that Daren Herbert has performed in, but it’s his first time playing Burrs. Daren played Oscar in L.A. at the Blank Theatre Company and was a swing in the 2010 Vancouver production. But it was Daren’s interest in the role of Burrs is one of the things that solidified The Wild Party as our 2015 production. While he was visiting our office to pick up his Dora nomination certificate last summer, we had a quick chat about The Wild Party. I asked him if it was a show he would ever want to do again and, if so, who he would want to play. When he said “Burrs” I immediately saw the potential for a thrilling performance and took the idea to Robert McQueen (our director) right away.
4. Cara Ricketts, who plays the leading role of Queenie, is doing a musical for her first time. When we began casting I reached out to a few actors I thought could embody Queenie. I absolutely love Cara’s work and so, on a whim, I sent her a Facebook message: “Totally random question… do you sing?” (Apparently, yes.) The rest is history.
5. Out of this giant cast of 15, over half of the performers are Acting Up alumni. We are thrilled to welcome back: Josh Epstein (Western Canada tour of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata), Sarite Harris (Parade), Daren A. Herbert (Parade, A Craigslist Cantata, Once On This Island), Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Falsettos), Sterling Jarvis (Caroline, or Change), David Lopez (Man In The Mirror concert), Stephen Patterson (Falsettos) and Eden Richmond (Both Sides Now, Long & Winding Road, Tapestries).
6. This will be only the second time Michael John LaChiusa’s work has been seen in Toronto (the first was a production of Hello Again that played in 2006) and the first time his work will be seen at Acting Up Stage Company. Given that LaChiusa is always named alongside important contemporary musical theatre writers like Adam Guettel, Jason Robert Brown, and Jeanine Tesori, bringing his work to Acting Up is long overdue!