Eagle Theatre’s ‘The Wild Party’: A night to remember, during the Roaring Twenties

wild party hammonton


From left, Andy Spinosi, Alexi Ishida, Jason Bediako and Hannah Kitrell co-star in “The Wild Party.”

Combine the twisted love story of “The Great Gatsby” with the unrestrained raunch of “Chicago” and the gang of eccentric characters of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and you have something close to Andrew Lippa’s Prohibition Era musical “The Wild Party.”

From Feb. 9 to Feb. 26, The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton will kick off its 2023 mainstage season with this tale of a party that goes awry.

“We wanted to pick something that was exciting to start the season off with a bang — and this one has a literal bang in it,” says Angela Longo, the theater’s producing artistic director. “The dancing is high energy. There’s some of the most insane vocal performances that I’ve ever seen. Everybody is constantly performing at a 10.”

The story centers around Queenie and Burrs, vaudeville performers who are in a toxic relationship. Following a violent episode, Queenie throws a party in an effort to rekindle their passion and make Burrs jealous. Their guests are fellow quirky vaudeville performers. But when Mr. Black shows up, the evening takes a turn. Excitement, rage and mayhem ensue until the party’s abrupt ending.

“At the end of the play, there’s this question — how did we come to this?” says Longo. “In this show, a lot of the failures and fall-outs come from the characters’ inability to communicate (and) to deal with their problems without numbing through alcohol and substances.”

Another question that arises: Why did this party exist in the first place?

“Looking at this from the moment that we’re in right now, when we’re seeing this desire to connect and desire to gather and feel like we’re a part of something … sometimes there’s a lot of failure in that,” says Longo. “This show asks those kinds of questions and shows the ramifications if we’re not intentional and not thoughtful.”


Andy Spinosi and Alexi Ishida.

This adaptation was written in the late 1990s but is based on Joseph Moncure March’s 1926 book-length poem. Once the poem entered public domain, a strange coincidence occurred. Two composers (Andrew Lippa and Michael John LaChiusa) simultaneously used it as source material to write musicals with the same title, and premiered them in New York in the same 1999-2000 season.

Lippa’s version premiered Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club with a cast that included Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs and Brian d’Arcy James. LaChiusa’s, co-written with Tony-winning playwright George C. Wolfe, premiered on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre (now the August Wilson Theatre) and co-starred Toni Collette and Mandy Patinkin.

Longo decided to stage Lippa’s version because its score (a fusion of pop, rock and R&B) and its focus on more individualized characters are well suited for the small cast of 10 performing in an intimate theater.

Although the poem was written in the Roaring Twenties and the musical debuted in 2000, the material is still relevant today. “It’s kind of timeless in a sort of sad way,” says Longo. “We just continue to make these same mistakes over and over again and we have a hard time confronting our own insecurities.”

Many of the lines from the poem are used as lyrics and dialogue. “It can be a little jarring in some moments when we’re in a scene and we’re just speaking in poetry,” says Longo. “There’s not very many musicals that have poetry in the dialogue.”

Cast members include Jason Bediako (Mr. Black), who graduated from Rutgers University; Hannah Kitrell (Kate), currently a student at Rowan University; and Andy Spinosi (Burrs) and Anthony Crosby (Eddie), who are Rowan alumni.

“We’re the closest Equity house for these students to get their foot in the door,” says Longo, also a Rowan alumna. “We’re hoping to be a stepping stone for some people and also serve as this home for professional theater in South Jersey.”



Longo promises that audiences will experience the full gamut of emotions.

“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be afraid, you’ll fall in love with characters, you’ll get it all,” she says.

When promoting the musical, Eagle Theatre included warnings explaining that the production contains simulated sexual violence, strong language, the sound of gunshots, portrayals of physical violence, domestic abuse, and substance and alcohol abuse.

“This production is super theatrical and all these elements of violence and substance abuse and some sexual violence are all very stylized in a way that I think is more digestible for an audience and it’s not so graphic,” says Longo.

The piece has plenty of humor as well. One character carries a ventriloquist doll with him at all times. An emcee character is constantly trying to make the audience laugh.

The cast will often directly address attendees. To enhance this experience, there will be some table seating around a partially thrust stage for VIP ticket holders.

Also, patrons are encouraged to dress in vintage-style attire.

“I love that idea of making a night out feel like an event,” says Longo. “I think theater is such a unique experience. You want to feel like you’re in it, like you’re a part of it, too. I love encouraging people to immerse themselves a little more.”

The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton presents “The Wild Party,” Feb. 9-12, 16-19 and 23-26. Visit eagletheatre.org.


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