When New Line Theatre closed Love Kills in October, I thought this week would never get here! But it did. Thank god. If it hadn't, we might have had to deal with a giant rip in the space-time continuum or something, and that's never fun...
So we finally start rehearsals this Thursday for Andrew Lippa's brilliant, rowdy, jazz musical, The Wild Party. (Lippa is also composer and lyricist for the new Addams Family musical.) Alison, the assistant director for The Wild Party and one of New Line's board members, has been bugging me for a really long time to do this show, but I've been scared of it... There's a ton of music -- the piano score is heavier than my cat! (And I've got a big-ass cat!) And it's really tough music! And it's got a big cast (by our standards) -- we'll have 16 in our cast. And there are five big dance numbers!
But I've been playing the score now for several months and it is so AMAZINGLY fun! Once I figured out how to stretch my poor li'l fingers around those mammoth, crunchy, jazz chords, I found out how crazy fun this score is to play! (Strangely enough, my shoulders have been sore lately, and I've finally realized it's the incredibly athletic piano playing I've been doing on Wild Party -- yes, it's that demanding...)
I think the same will be true for the actors -- it will be hard to learn the score and they'll have to work their asses off, but once they do, I think they'll all have the time of their lives singing it.
For me, part of what makes the show so interesting right now is its (probably accidental) relevance to our country right now. The mad pursuit of individual success and wealth, at the expense of the community, has so plagued us for the last ten years -- it's at the core of our economic meltdown. We had a "wild party" in this country (or at least some of us did) and now we're paying the price. When everyone is interested only in their own welfare, you can be sure that the success of the few will come at the expense of the many. It's only at the end of The Wild Party that Queenie understands this. "How did we come to this?" she asks.
Yeah, no shit, how did we?
This is a show (fuck that, it's a whole season) that explores the darkest side of humanity. The great device of Wild Party is that one selfless man (Black) enters a room full of entirely selfish people, and by the end, at least one of them has opened her eyes -- just as we're all doing now.
People ask me why we do so many dark shows. The answer is easy: the dark side is a lot more interesting than the happy side. But it goes deeper than that. We don't learn much from seeing happy people. But we learn a lot from exploring the darkness. People go to the theatre to connect, to make sense of the insanity of our world, to try to understand themselves and each other. Musicals like [title of show] and Legally Blonde can be lots of fun, but what do we take away from them...? It's like a dinner of doughnuts -- sounds awesome till you get the bellyache...
There's a reason New Line is in our 19th season. People want to experience what we create. You're gonna be exhausted at the end of The Wild Party, but you'll have had a fucking blast on the New Line roller coaster! And if we do our job right, you'll leave with some insight into what drives us -- all of us -- to our darker moments. And it will be comforting to be reminded that we all have those darker moments. It's a tough ride for all of us.
As Ben Kingsley once said about actors, "The tribe has elected you to tell its story. You are the shaman/healer, that's what the storyteller is, and I think it's important for actors to appreciate that. Too often actors think it's all about them, when in reality it's all about the audience being able to recognize themselves in you." And that's what theatre is about. Not just to divert you, but to remind you that you are not alone. Even at your darkest hour.
Long Live the Musical!