Kinkier than Kinky Boots and with more class A drugs than Keith Richard’s medicine cabinet, composer John LaChiusa’s version of The Wild Party opened this week at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new venue “The Other Palace“. We took time out with two of the show’s stars, Tiffany Graves and Dex Lee to talk sex, drugs and musical orgies:
Before we get down and dirty, here’s what you need to know:
There are two versions of The Wild Party (the other is by Andrew Lippa). This is the Michael John LaChiusa version.
The Wild Party is set on a single evening from about 10 o’clock at night until 6 in the morning. The party’s hosts, Burrs and Queenie, have a feisty relationship and their guests enjoy copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. As the party fizzes, the night takes a dark turn with murder, rape and infidelity on the cards.
Tiffany Graves plays Madelaine – so who better to tell us all about her character?
I always seem to end up playing murderesses, witches, or bitches. This time I’m playing a lesbian stripper! My character, Madeleine True, arrives at the party with Sally, who she met a couple of nights ago, and with whom she’s now madly in love.
Do you get to preserve your modesty?
Well, the show opens with four of us playing chorines in Burrs’s vaudeville act and in that number we’re not wearing all that much! But my costume as Madeleine is quite modest – I’ve certainly worn less!
You’re no stranger The Other Palace?
Indeed – I performed here in what was the cabaret space downstairs with Anita Louise Coombe as The Desperate Divas, and I’ve guested for Jonathan Reid Gealt, Stuart Matthew Price and David Bedella.
Dex, you’re playing Jackie. How did you get started as a performer?
I started out doing lots of dance festivals, tap, jazz, and musical theatre and then aged 18 I got into ARTS ED. I got a DaDA and did my three years of training, and then did Scottsboro Boys at the Garrick Theatre and In the Heights at the Southwark Playhouse. I also toured the UK in Hairspray, playing Seaweed which was so much fun! Most recently I played Danny Zuko in Grease at Leicester Curve.
Did you always want to go into Musical Theatre?
Absolutely. I would perform at festivals where you’d have Musical Theatre sections, Song & Dance sections and I’d watch things like the Rat Pack with Sammy Davis Jr – I was very much into that style of performance where you’ve got to be able to do it all.
Your character, Jackie, couldn’t be further away from Seaweed or Danny Zuko. Did you have any doubts about taking on the role?
Our director, Drew McOnie approached it very sensitively. We spoke about the themes of the show and wanted to make it as truthful and accurate in its depiction as possible. The beauty of Theatre is that you get a chance to explore scenarios that you wouldn’t put yourself in, testing yourself emotionally and physically. That’s what drew me to the part.
Is there a show you would tear your own arm off to appear in?
I guess I’d love to do a Rat Pack style show. Sammy Davis Jr did Golden Boy, so maybe something like that? I guess I’d also love something totally opposite – a classic show like Les Mis…or maybe Kinky Boots!
What do you love to listen to?
Anything that you’d find playing at a late-night jazz bar at three in the morning. Gregory Porter, Louis Armstrong, that jazz style – that’s what would be on my ipod.
Tiffany, over to you. How would you describe the music for The Wild Party?
The score is very jazzy with intricate harmonies. When we first had the sitzprobe it was a massive leap from rehearsing with just a piano to singing with the band. I’ve been to quite a few and this is one of those where I thought gosh, this is really quite special. The brass, clarinet and sax sound really cool.
How many are in the cast?
There are fifteen of us and we’re mostly all on stage for about 70% of the show. I play opposite Melanie Bright who plays my girlfriend Sally. She doesn’t say much because she’s off her face on heroine for most of the show! We do all mingle, particularly during the orgy – which I suppose is rather the point!
Who are some of the other characters?
There’s Dolores, the legendary performer who’s entering the twilight of her career, two producers, Queenie who’s also a vaudevillian actress, Tate who’s her best friend, another vaudeville star who’s moved over to Broadway. There are lots more – bohemian, artistic types who are all into drugs and having a good time.
Dex…What are your plans after The Wild Party?
I want to travel the world! Ever since I did my A-levels, I’ve thought about travelling but I didn’t take a gap year. So I want to go and explore the world! I want to start with a Buddhist temple, but I’m not sure where yet…
Do you see yourself back in Musical Theatre when you return?
I definitely want to expand my horizons. I’d love to do some TV work as well as straight plays. I did a play at the Royal Court called Father Comes Home from the Wars which opened a whole new perspective on performance.
Who were the pivotal people in your journey to a performing career?
I’d definitely say my sister – when we did those dance festivals, we did them together. Also the head of Arts Ed, Chris Hocking.
And your sister – is she still performing too?
Yes, and she’s definitely a name to watch out for in the future – Miriam-Teak Lee. she’s in the third year of Arts Ed so watch this space!
And Tiffany, if you could have been a performer in any era, when would you go back to?
Gosh…I’d probably go back to the golden age of Hollywood. Of course we have La La Land now, but I think the era when they really did it to perfection was the 1940s & 50s.
Who else is in the cast?
Refreshingly, there isn’t any stunt casting. Frances Rufelle and Donna McKechnie are obviously really well known, but they’re famous because they can do it. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and John Owen Jones also feature prominently and there are 15 of us in the cast. It’s been a lovely rehearsal period because everyone just gets on with what they’re doing – there’s been no drama or egos.
Is there an age limit for the show?
Yes, it’s recommended for 16+
Book tickets for The Wild Party – running until Saturday 1st April.