TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is presenting the American Premiere musical revue “The Life of the Party” directed and co-created by David Babani, the Artistic Director of London’s Menier Chocolate Factory. It features the rollicking musical journey that is celebrated in the songs of Tony-Award-nominated composer Andrew Lippa who wrote such musical hits as “The Wild Party”,” The Addams Family” and “Big Fish” Andrew Lippa is a featured performers along with a cast of Broadway and West End veterans. I am familiar with Andrew Lippa’s music having seen “The Wild Party” on Broadway and the recent Ray of Light production and two recent productions of “The Addam Family”. He has certain cleverness to his music especially the score of the “The Addam Family”
Andrew Lippa is a fetching personality and he easily holds the narrative together with an easy and assured charm. However it would have been better if he had let more skilled performers sing his splendid tunes. But, apart from his delivery “You Are Here” from his tone poem “I Am Harvey Milk” which he sang beautifully, he was exceptional. Not that he was bad or woeful, he wasn’t. However he was not electrifying or fervent or engaging as his material required.
Andrew Lippa opens the show at the piano singing a true story about how when has in high school and has a crush on a teen age boy, who introduced him to Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd”. (Oh I didn’t know then/It was you revealed my future/Through some other’s guy’s pen/It was clever/It was gory/It was telling my story/In beautiful music and verse/ And though it sounds predictable/Or too much to believe/As time ticked by/My heart and I/Fell out of love with Marshall/And fell in love with Steve)
The singers deliver the very best of Lippa in a smooth, professional and rousing showcase. Damian Humbley who is well known singer in London skillfully sang and acted the Lippa’s songs from “John & Jen” and “Big Fish” He has a range of characters that extend from the baseball-mad teenager of “John & Jen” and to a bracingly irreverent nun, Sister Severia in “Christ Almighty” from a new musical “Asphalt Beach” all in costume. He makes it exhilarating and stimulating in all of his characters. He is a delightful, mesmeric Fester in “The Moon and Me” from “The Addams Family” and completely different as the darker, bleak man who sings “Let Me Drown”
Sally Ann Triplett (Mrs. DuMaurier in “Finding Neverland” and Sue Snell in “Carrie” on Broadway )with her thematic resonance voice shines as the deliciously morbid Morticia of the Addams Family or the overbearing but oddly vulnerable baseball mom for “John & Jen” or the tragicomic lovelorn Madeline from “The Wild Party” singing “An Old Fashioned Love Story”.
Teal Wicks (She starred on Broadway in “Wicked” as Elphaba and “Jekyll and Hyde”as Emma Crew)with her vibrant voice does a hilarious turn as Cinderella-cum-dominatrix in “Cindy” (“No one plays with Cindy anymore/ I like my lovers tied up on the floor/ The prince thought I was there to amuse him/ Now he pays me just to abuse him/No one plays with Cindy anymore) and two songs from Lippa’s Broadway show “Big Fish” She was fantastic as Queenie singing “Let Me Down” in “The Wild Party”
Another high light of two hour production with intermission is a quartet blend exquisitely, particularly in the Rigoletto-inspired “Poor Child” from “The Wild Party” Lippa points out that “out Verdi’d Verdi” in the song. I enjoyed the “The Addams Family” segment when the group sings “When You’re An Addams” and “Just Around the Corner”. Andrew Lippa concluded the program with his working with 87 year old collaborator Jules Feiffer on “The Man In the Ceiling” with a song from the production.
A affirmation must go to the outstanding direction of conductor/piano William Liberatore along with Candace Guirao on violin, Emily Onderdonk on Viola and Kris Yenney on Cello. Sharply directed by David Babani, stylishly lit by Tim Lutkin and the simple but effective choreography by Rebecca Howell is sexy, sophisticated and funny.
“The Life of the Party” plays through September 18th at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, San Francisco. For tickets go to www.theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960 Coming up next is John Patrick Shanley “Outside Mullingar” opening in Mountain View on October 5th and running through October 30.