What do JANE EYRE, LITTLE WOMEN, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and the gospel have in common? They have all served as context for musicals twice before.

The same goes for THE WILD PARTY by Joseph Moncure March. Seventy years after its publication, the book-length poem found its way into the hands of composer Andrew Lippa, who decided it would make an excellent musical.

Short North Stage will present Lippa’s work May 11-28 at the Garden Theater (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus). Lippa and the cast of the SNS production will host a public talkback following the May 21 show at the Sycamore (262 E. Sycamore Street in downtown Columbus).

“[After finishing the musical JOHN & JEN]I had no idea what I was going to do next,” said Lippa, who lives in Columbus with his husband Tom Regouski. “I walked into a Barnes & Nobles and looked for poems to turn into songs.

“I saw this skinny book on the shelf called THE WILD PARTY… and the inside cover was all flaky red. I figured any book with an inside cover like that must be pretty cool. On the next page was a picture of Queenie at her dressing room table and I read the lines, “Queenie was a blonde whose age stood still. And she danced twice a day at the variety show.'”

From that moment on, the idea for Lippa’s next musical swam in his head. It was fresh, original and full of complex characters that would be perfect for a musical.

“I didn’t know[co-composer]Michael John LaChiusa was looking over my shoulder,” Lippa joked.

LaChiusa had separately discovered the same lyrics and had the same idea as Lippa – adapting “The Wild Party” into a musical. Both musicals landed in New York City in 2000. LaChiusa’s one-act play, starring Mandy Patinkin, Toni Collette and Eartha Kitt, ran on Broadway from April to June. Lippa’s two-act show, starring Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Brian d’Archy James and Julia Murney, had a streak of 54 shows on Broadway.

“It was awful,” Lippa said when she found out that LaChiusa was also using the same book for a musical. “It happens all the time in Hollywood. I remember there were two ‘viruses are killing the world’ movies and two movies where giant waves wiped out New York City.

“Luckily I was far enough into the making of my musical and producer Jeffrey Salesperson and Kevin McCollum said, “We’ll do your show.”

“In the end, that’s all you want anyone on your team to say. I did what I’ve always done. I just got up, stuck my flag in the sand and said, ‘This is going to happen.’ and I just did my best to make it happen.”


Since entering the University of Michigan, Lippa has been flying the flag and making things happen. Lippa was roommates with Seller, who later produced RENT (1996), AVENUE Q (2003), IN THE HEIGHTS (2008) and HAMILTON (2015). It was Seller who encouraged Lippa to make his first attempt at writing a musical with him.

The result was JACK, THE GIANT KILLER, a 45-minute musical based on the title character from Jack and the Beanstalk.

“I’ve never been a fan of musicals with a comma in the title,” he said. “It shows you how little we knew about what we were doing.

“I have a copy of it right here on my shelf. I had a colleague of mine here for a retreat and I took it down. We wanted to see if I sounded like myself at the time. There were horrible songs… but they sounded like I.”

Lippa’s professors Brent Wagner and William Bolcom, winners of the National Medal of Arts, the Pulitzer Prize and the Grammy Prize, would disagree. After hearing Lippa’s first attempt at writing a musical, the pair encouraged the novice to keep writing and working.

“It was one of those wonderful moments when your professors say, ‘Hey, look over here,'” Lippa said.

“I tell students that making musicals is the hardest thing I can do. And that’s why I do it. I think we should do hard things in this world.”

Since 1995, Lippa has continued to do the difficult thing: making songs and musicals with great success. The cast soundtrack for JOHN & JEN was released four times (“To get it done once is a miracle; they don’t usually release a cast recording of the same show four times until you’re dead,” Lippa said with a chuckle). Lippa’s THE ADDAMS FAMILY (2009) earned him a Tony nomination, was recorded in three different languages ​​and is the top musical in licensing. His musical BIG FISH (2013) also landed on Broadway.

In addition, Lippa was commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver to write a hymn to celebrate Israel’s 50th birthday. In fact, he did vocal arrangements as well as with the songs of the animated film PRINCE OF EGYPT and provided songs for Nick Junior’s WONDER PETS.

And yet Lippa remembers that at first he was paralyzed by doubts.

When asked what was the biggest thing he had to overcome in his career, Lippa didn’t hesitate to say, “Self hatred. There was this voice that came to me for decades and said I wasn’t good enough. that I would not be successful and that I was not valued.

“Isn’t old age wonderful in a way? Now when I look at these doubts, I know I’ve dumped most of that crap. I’m glad I had it because it fueled my artistic life.”


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