Gockel's Wild Party II'm just now beginning to register the enormity of what we've taken on. This is one big mother fucking ambitious project. And this is not my first time at the (really gay) rodeo -- New Line Theatre has conquered Sweeney Todd, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Bat Boy, Passion, Sunday in the Park with George, Jacques Brel... many incredibly challenging pieces of musical theatre. But this one challenges them all.

First off, it's a cast of sixteen -- we've only done three shows bigger than that in nineteen years. There's an ocean of complex vocal arrangements, although we've pretty much conquered the score. Robin is creating some of the most ambitious, most complex choreography she's ever done for us, and yet the cast is picking it up. I've been working on the blocking for months now but I'm still finding cool new moments, still being inspired by the music we've been learning and the choreography Robin is giving us. And we haven't even gotten to the characters and the acting yet. We start blocking later this week.

To add to the complexity, this is a show that requires two opposing styles -- on the one hand, a kind of postmodern-Broadway (think Urinetown) mixed with classic Vaudeville (somewhat like Chicago); and on the other, moments of very subtle, honest, naked emotion (think Love Kills). There are very intimate, gentle scenes and moments of terrible violence. It's both Fosse (Chicago) and Brecht (Sweeney Todd), with a little Shakespearean heft thrown in.

And it works because that's what this story is. I just finished reading the original poem a couple days ago. (I love reading source material while I'm working on a show.) The poem has that same dangerous split personality, and that duality mirrors both Queenie herself and her relationship with Burrs. And that what makes The Wild Party the perfect New Line show; it explores the double-edged swords of love and passion and sex. Queenie and Burrs love each deeply, recklessly, but they're poison to each other. Queenie herself comes to that understanding in the song "Maybe I Like It This Way."

Gockel's Wild Party IILike many New Line shows, The Wild Party is Shakespearean in its themes and its dramatic arc. We watch Burrs (as a stand-in for 1920s over-consumption and over-appetite?) just disintegrate before our eyes and we watch his Tragic Flaw (jealousy) chew away at him, just as we watch the same thing happen to Othello or Lear. Burrs even gets his own Mad Scene with "Let Me Drown." But, in the tradition of Fosse's Chicago and Hal Prince's Cabaret, this dark, Brechtian tragedy is presented as deconstructed, fucked-up musical comedy. Vaudevillian comedy numbers alternate with full-out Broadway production numbers, but there's this dank, creepy shadow lurking behind all of it. Thanks to the homemade gin and coke and weed, this is a room full of nothing but primal drives -- lust, jealousy, revenge, hurt, ego -- there is no higher thinking going on here. Lear goes literally mad; here drink, drugs, and desire do the trick.

As I think I've mentioned here before, Alison, who's directing the show with me and sits on our Board, has been urging me to do this show for a long time. But because at least a third of the score isn't on the cast recording, I didn't fully understand the size of this undertaking, and the incredible artistry of the writing. I knew what was on the CD was really good, but that's just part of this amazing canvas.

So now I know and I'm more psyched than ever. And more scared. But I realize that all our best shows scare the living shit out of me until after opening night (sometimes even after that). I think my fear equals the task in front of us. Luckily, I also think this merry band of ours is equal to the task.

We're in the process of creating something really remarkable. I can already see it taking shape...

Long Live the Musical!