There’s a party at Kennedy Theatre, and everyone’s invited.
Starting Oct. 23, the UH Mānoa theatre department is set to present the Earle Ernst Lab Theatre’s premiere primetime show of Kennedy’s 50th anniversary season: “The Wild Party” by Andrew Lippa. Set in the Roaring ‘20s, viewers will have the opportunity to gaze into the past as they attend a party like no other.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF MUSICAL
On the surface, “The Wild Party” may sound like your average piece of musical theater, as a pair of desperate lovers attempts to rekindle their relationship by throwing, as the title suggests, a wild party, complete with musical underscores and singing, as well as dance numbers laid out by choreographers Michelle Johnson and Katheryn Holt. However, things are not always as they seem; viewers who come to the show expecting a campy, Broadway-style musical may be surprised at what the party has to offer. The play deals with mature themes of love and lust as the leads attempt to make one another jealous by cheating on each other with as many people as possible, despite the disasters that may result. In fact, the themes and actions portrayed in the show help set it apart from most other musicals, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!”, which Kennedy Theatre showcased two years ago.
THE REAL DEAL
So just what kind of musical is “The Wild Party”? As director and MFA candidate Brittni Shambaugh explained, the show is “real,” with the intent to “make people feel something.” Although no stranger to directing, Shambaugh, who most recently directed last season’s “Sonnets for an Old Century,” put careful consideration into the show she wanted to direct as her MFA thesis. “I wanted to challenge myself,” Shambaugh said. She did just that by opting to direct what is not only her first musical, but one that relies heavily on character interaction and complex songs, as opposed to the infamous “jazz hands” and gaudy, unrealistic dance numbers often found in other musicals. To accomplish this task, Shambaugh’s rehearsal process relied heavily on interaction between characters and the actors that play them. Kyle Scholl, who plays Kate (and was last seen in spring’s “Thread Hell”) emphasized that an important part of the process was making everyone feel “really connected as a cast.” To accomplish this, the first few weeks of rehearsals were dedicated solely to dance and ensemble work, with character work taking a back seat until later in the process. Scholl points out that with such a large cast – 18 people all crammed in the Lab Theatre’s tiny performance space – cooperation and a sense of community was key.
THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
When all is said and done, audience members can expect to be treated to just what the show’s title promises. Cast members have been trained in audience interaction for this show, and theatergoers are not only allowed but encouraged to show up dressed in classic ‘20s attire to help bring the party to life. “The Wild Party” may not be for everyone – it is recommended for viewers aged 16 and up – but if, as Shambaugh suggests, theatergoers “come in with an open mind” and look forward to “a lot of fun and also a lot of danger,” this show promises to be one party viewers won’t soon forget.
“The Wild Party” can be seen at the Earle Ernst Lab Theatre on Oct. 23-26 at 8 p.m. and on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. There will be a post-show chat after the performance on Oct. 25.