The Wild Party composer Andrew Lippa.
Andrew Lippa’s tragic Jazz Age musical The Wild Party made its Off-Broadway premiere in 2000 in the basement of New York City Center. Now that the show is finally playing our mainstage (from July 15-18), we talked with Lippa about the origins of the show, how it led to his first encounter with Kristin Chenoweth, and the changes that he’s making to The Wild Party for City Center—including a new song for Sutton Foster.
CITY CENTER: Where did the notion of writing a musical based on The Wild Party come from?
ANDREW LIPPA: In 1995 my first musical, John & Jen, was running in New York City, and I was looking for something else to write. I was in a Barnes & Noble and thought, “I’m going to maybe set some poetry to music.” In those days, I didn’t write lyrics. I looked through the poetry section, and sitting on a shelf was a skinny little volume with a wonderful cover called The Wild Party. I cracked it open and the inside of the book had a red fuzzy liner, sort of like Pat the Bunny. I was already intrigued. Then I turned to the next page and saw these gorgeous drawings by Art Spiegelman, and saw the poem start:
Queenie was a blonde, and her age stood still,
And she danced twice a day in vaudeville.
There was something about the beginning of that poem, the description of that woman, that spoke to me personally. I didn’t clearly know it at the time. I just knew that I was more excited about something than I’d ever been in my life. I thought, “I want to make this into a musical.” And I thought, “I can,” because I was gonna do it like Cats; I was going to set the poem to music. I found out later that that wasn’t going to work.