It’s not easy being the host of a gin-soaked party attended by both your friends and enemies, and it gets even more complicated when a few hundred more random guests show up at your apartment looking for booze and entertainment.
That’s the setup for “The Wild Party,” an interactive musical from the Denver Center being staged in an unusual venue: the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora. The Stanley is a converted airplane hangar from the old Stapleton Airport, and it now houses a variety of shops and restaurants as well as a large event space.
And that’s where “The Wild Party” takes place. When you show up, you’re ushered into a dark club with a bar on either end. It’s the Roaring ’20s, so dress up if you’d like (most of the audience did but it’s not required). You grab a drink, sit down and contemplate the tiny stage as you meet your neighbors.
Then the singers and dancing girls are out in the crowd, belting out tunes and jokes while getting to know the audience members. Before long, the entire audience is ushered backstage to the Manhattan apartment of Queenie (Emily Van Fleet), the blond whirlwind who loves a party and isn’t afraid of a crowd.
This is where the hangar comes in handy. The Denver Center’s Off Center crew has built a fantastic, fully enclosed stage on site, complete with sofas, chairs, elaborate bohemian decor and plenty of entrances for the cast to move in and around. Audience members are now the party guests, and the action takes place all around.
If you’ve ever attended a musical and bemoaned the fact that your seats didn’t afford you a great view, then this is your chance to see a stellar cast up close and, yes, pretty personal. There’s a live band off in the corner that pretty much never stops, and they serve up a variety of dance-hall tunes as the cast members perform atop tables, at a piano, on a bed or wherever the action takes them.
What starts as a fun-filled evening for the characters begins to devolve as too much liquor flows, old rivalries and jealousies bubble up and the fractious relationship between Queenie and her tipsy partner Burrs (Drew Horwits) spill out into the open. There’s a fight or two, a gun goes off, some drug use and even a bit of nudity, but ultimately the story the show hinges upon is a lot less important than the stage that’s been set, the music being performed and the experience of traveling back in time to the Roaring ’20s.
By the time you leave this bacchanal, you really do feel like you’ve been through a truly unique experience. Part vaudeville, part musical and part fever dream with a healthy dollop of soap opera, “The Wild Party” is both fun, disturbing and an entirely unique and unexpected theater experience.
Tickets are going fast for this show, which only runs through Oct. 31, but if you can get your hands on a pair of spats and a flapper dress and head on down to Aurora, it’ll be worth the trip. Be sure to have dinner before the show at one of the Stanley’s restaurants, and check out the creative use of an old hangar, converted into a cool gathering place and event venue.