Party Come Here, book by Daniel Goldfarb, music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum. Directed by Christopher Ashley.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"Come out of your cave!"
Shangri-La, that place where perfection resides, where all is good, all is for the best in mankind’s nature, exists in different ways for different people. For Orlando da Sylva, one of the protagonists in the new musical "Party Come Here," playing on the Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, his personal Shangri-La lies within the depths of a cave on the Brazilian shore in Rio de Janeiro. For Wood Weinberg, Rio itself is that certain place. In it he has built his house made of gold which shelters him and his nut-brown, native trophy wife Volere. For both men things change when along comes Jack, Wood’s son, a thirty year old would-be magician who hasn’t the confidence or courage to be himself without the approval of a woman, either mother or fiancé. For all three men, actually, things are about to change.
"Party Come Here" is that rarity we hear people talk about, a totally original musical. Not adapted from a book, play, movie, poem or anything else, playwright Daniel Goldfarb has constructed a totally new piece from his own creative mind and collaborated with David Kirshenbaum on the final work. It is still a work in progress, but under the subtle yet specific direction of Christopher Ashley it is being presented as a polished gem, well set in G. W. Mercier’s fluid sets, and David C. Woolard’s defining costumes under Howell Binkley’s emotive lighting.
Jack, played brilliantly - and again with subtlety and warmth - by Hunter Foster, is the not-so-love child of a cold-hearted woman and an indifferent man. Daddy Wood - played for all his gold lamé costumes are worth by Adam Heller - unable to handle his wife’s societal chill, left early on for warmer climates. Mama Liberty - portrayed as the ice princess from hell who smokes constantly, has perfect hair and who causes snow to happen wherever she may be - is played for all she’s worth by Kaitlin Hopkins. This nuclear family is bent out of shape when Jack’s marriage to Kate, played by Kate Reinders (a very talented Kristin Chenowith look/sound alike), goes belly up just at the point of "I do" which turns into "I don’t, yet."
So, instead of a honeymoon in Paris, the unwed pair go to Rio to find Jack's father. There, Jack meets both his stepmother, Volere played delectably by Chaunteé Schuler and Orlando, Malcolm Gets displaying all his various talents. What happens to these six people when Jack meets Rio is partially the result of the actions of a seventh character, the huge statue of Christ on Corcovada.
In many ways this is a derivative piece, but the total effect is so original, so different and so much fun that the laughter never ceases, even when the play turns potentially tragic. This is due, in no small part, to the quality of the score. There are currently sixteen songs (not counting reprises) through which these characters interact and relate their deep emotional concerns. Even the darkest of them is funny in some way and the use of both the ancient Hebrew strains of melody and rhythm and the Brazilian Samba sensibility make them unusual, memorable and, frankly, delicious.
With what may well be the funniest wedding sequence I’ve ever seen, this show takes off in directions that astound and amaze. The opening number, which features a beautiful and elegantly Brazilian ensemble of four, "Miracles Happen," sets both the tone and the theme of the play. It could as easily be the title song of this piece as the equally festive and confusing "The Party Come Here" sung by Volere. Wood’s first song "Life is a Coconut", Orlando’s many theme-oriented solos including the deft, witty, clever and despairing "Everybody Hates" serve the show’s concept well. Liberty finally has a top-notch tune with "Woman on a Rampage" as she becomes Rio’s most unlikely tourist, outfitted for skiing.
The choreography by Dan Knechtges is a delight and although the ensemble haven’t all gotten the exact feeling of street dancers in Rio, they come darn close. The music is provided by a trio of players who often sound like more than just three, under the direction of Vadim Feichtner.
The creators of this new musical comedy, and it is a comedy, have turned out an elaborate pancake larded with pom-pom sized goodies. Malcolm Gets as Orlando has the opportunity to share most of those goodies and when he brings the "Lost Horizon" theme to its nadir it is both tragic and hilarious. His Shangri-La abandoned for love, and not just one kind of love, but many including the surprising, he pays the ultimate price. While Foster’s performance of the central character, Jack, may be the focus of the play, Gets’ Orlando is the dead center of the work.
This is a show with future and that future must have Broadway in its sights. I suggest you get up off the couch - RIGHT NOW - and get up there to see "Party Come Here." If you wait a day, you may have to wait a year for Party Come Here. This is the big one!
Hunter Foster and Malcolm Gets; photo: Andy Tew
Kaitlin Hopkins as Liberty; photo: Andy Tew
Kate Reinders and Adam Heller; photo: Andy Tew
Party Come Here is playing at the Nikos Stage in Williamstown as part of the Williamstown Theatre Festival season. It plays through August 5. Call the box office for ticket prices and availabilities at 413-597-3400.