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Comparison of The Wild Party and The Wild Party

The Wild Party, 2000. Music and lyrics by Michael J LaChiusa, book by George C Wolfe. Broadway

The Wild Party, 1997/2000. Music, lyrics and book by Andrew Lippa. Off-Broadway

Having no prior knowledge of either show, either musically or contextually, I decided to start with
some background reading. I found interesting coverage in The New York Times 1 which outlined the
controversy created when the two shows, of the same name and same source material, opened
within months of each other in New York. From here I read the original 1928 poem by Joseph
Mancure March to familiarise myself with style and subject matter. I only then listened to the
original cast recordings of both shows. I always find this the most efficient way to grasp each
shows compositional styles and for this task used them as a platform to build my comparison of
the shows.

- Both shows open with a number of the same title, which is also the first line of Marchs poem,
Queenie Was A Blonde. Lippas opens with a rousing trumpet solo, then surprisingly he
introduces an electric guitar and drums to create a fusion of twenties and more modern musical
styles. The song is used to introduce the lead characters, with Queenie taking the solo.
LaChiusa also makes use of the seductive trumpet, but maintains the more traditional twenties
sound and the male ensemble are given this song.
- Each composer decided to add songs in similar places in regards to the narrative of the
poem.This includes the opening, the plan to have the party, the introduction of Eddie and Mae,
the point at which Burrs goes crazy, the apparent orgy, etc. This aided my direct comparison of
two songs that are essentially communicating the same thing.
- What I regarded as the most prominent difference between the two versions was how each
composer dealt with the vast array of characters that March presents to his readers. LaChiusa
includes all of them. The story is told through a series of vaudeville sketches, allowing each
character to have at least one solo moment. There are also minor storylines outside of the
protagonists love triangle.
- Lippa presents the narrative in a more traditional musical theatre style. He uses a similar sized
cast but focuses on four characters: Queenie, Burrs, Black, and Kate. Cast members
occasionally break the fourth wall to narrate, using passages from March's poem. While Kate is
in both versions, shes an ensemble member in LaChiusas huge cast, but Lippa makes her a
lead. Lippa also chooses not to give the ensemble individual songs.

1http://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/06/arts/two-musicals-one-source-it-duel-shrugging-producers-
say-shows-must-go.html
- Lippas Kate, offers contrast to Black. Her character comes across as a energetic party girl with
a dark sense of humour in act two. She sings perhaps the most well known song from either
show The Life of the Party.
- LaChiusas Moving Uptown, sung by Dolores, encompasses all that the Broadway ballad is
famous for! It is emotionally engaging, mournful yet funny and intellectual.
- Queenie is presented very differently in each show. Played by Toni Colette in LaChiusas and
Julia Murney in Lippas, the characters are written similarly but portrayed very differently.
Colettes Queenie is more whiny, more childish yet also manages to be more passive of Burrs
threats or hate. I ultimately felt more sympathy with her at her breaking point.
- Lippas Queenie comes across as a strong female protagonist, which I think is different to
Marchs description of her. LaChiusa adheres to the original Queenie, a needy wife who has no
control herself or anybody else.
- As I touched on above, the orchestrations for each show are quite different. LaChiusa uses a
traditional big Broadway orchestra, with a large brass and reed sections and that function well in
the shows slower second act. Lippas however, adds to a smaller orchestration some guitars,
acoustic and electric, as well as a vibraphone and other modern sounds. This adds to the overall
feeling that Lippas is more timeless: the orchestrations, as well as the original productions
generic costuming and sets, certainly give the impression of the 1920s, but not as blatantly as
LaChiusas. That actually does help a lot in making the message of the show more universal.
- Even in Lachiusas slower songs, like Moving Uptown or Tabu, there is an energy still
flowing, and the party is still as wild as it was before. In Lippas, I feel like the sentimentality can
slow the show down, since the songs are more general and timeless. LaChiusa is very specific
in using proper nouns and era-specific diction in his songs.
- Lippas is a more generic love story while LaChiusas is more of a tragedy of the ensemble
than anything else. Theyre taking different messages from the same material, which people
naturally do.
- The music in LaChuisa's version is tightly focused on the style of music from the era it takes
place in. I also am a fan of unconventional storytelling methods. But mostly I think there is just
more substance to LaChuisa's version, focusing on issues of race, sexuality, discrimination, the
American Dream-there is so much to take away.
- Though he never settles on one musical style, Lippa's music is undeniably rousing. Lippa uses
vocal acrobatics in many of his songs, adding runs and belted high notes for effect. Unlike many
composers who use this tactic however, Lippa uses it only in moments where it is naturally called
for. AN EXAMPLE OF THIS BEINGMOST LIKELY TO FIND IN A MENZEL SONG
- Looking through a Google image search for The Wild Party Poster, I found only one poster for
an amateur production of LaChiusas musical, but more than five for Lippas. My guess here is
that most people find the Lippa version to be more accessable, as well as more P.C. and
entertaining for a general audience.

- looking at photos and videos for a visual comparison


- what are the instant musical differences?
- different plot and focus on different characters
- each composer felt different areas needed to be explored
- how does each show comply with genre?
- what other sources to look at?
- branding
- budget.
- other works by each composer and how they compare
- do they alter my understanding go genre?
-

http://unsungmusicals.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/which-wild-party-for-you.html