The Wedding Party Experience at the Margaret Place Hotel through February 3
If you’re looking to enjoy a three-hour “dance party” in a beautiful Lower Garden District courtyard while savoring some yummy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, then by all means check out The Wedding Party Experience at the Margaret Place Hotel, a new stylish venue.
If, however, you want to partake of a wedding-themed “immersive theatre” show, as The Wedding Party Experience also bills itself, then track down a production of Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding somewhere or just stream its 2004 film version and plan to talk back to the screen, but RSVP “NO” to The Wedding Party Experience.
The Wedding Party Experience promises “all the trappings of a wedding reception…without the wedding” and we soon find out that the bride and groom ran away from their wedding ceremony that afternoon. (Actually, not so soon as, despite an announced 8pm start time, nothing happens plot-wise for the first half hour.) Since it’s already been paid for, the wedding party “will go on as planned” and, certainly, that could be a promising point of departure for a show. But, while we’re introduced to the wedding planner, the bride’s parents, and seven guests, nothing ever really comes of it.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as, while Julia Delois and Alex Pomes are listed in the virtual program as “Co-founders”, no one is listed as a writer. So while The Wedding Party Experience may be somewhat modeled on Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding, there’s no narrative thread, no character development, nothing, really, to keep an audience interested in these characters and what they’re doing at this bride’n’groom-less wedding party.
Instead, what we get every half hour or so, are brief generic vignettes of “wedding reception-ness”–the drunken maid of honor, the best man and a pal doing a dance, the bride’s parents welcoming an ex of their daughter’s, etc. Even this might’ve passed for entertainment but none of it is funny, witty, charming or anything else that qualifies as professional theater. Instead, it’s just coarse and cheap as when that drunken maid of honor starts talking about a blow job she and her galpal the bride once gave a guy.
Delois is also listed as “Director”, but I’m baffled as to what she did to earn that title. She did not help her cast to shape their characters in any way. She leaves them to wander around the playing area, haphazardly interacting with audience members, sometimes in character, sometimes not; if I hadn’t looked in the virtual program, I would not have known that some of the folks were actually in the cast and not just paying guests.
Because of this, such fine thespians as J’aiLa Price, Joe Signorelli and Ken Goode are wasted, and I felt bad for Carlos M. Gonzalez and Kerry Pakucko who must act out a trite scene late in the evening for which no context has been provided.
Delois also plays the unnamed “Wedding Planner” without exhibiting any interesting–comic or dramatic–traits. One would think such a wacky (“Runaway bride AND groom!”) situation would cause a wedding planner to start drinking or overcompensate in some way or have a breakdown or, well, I don’t know (O, for a writer!), but Delois just soldiers on as though nothing has happened, thus missing lots of comic opportunities. Instead, about midway through the evening, Delois, wearing her “Co-founder” hat I guess, weirdly broke down the 4th wall and asked us “if you’re having a good time to tell your friends” about the show. Shouldn’t she wait till the end to do this?
The Wedding Party Experience does demonstrate how difficult it is to pull off such an immersive show like this; Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding ran for years and years not only because there had never been anything like it before, but because it was just so well done.
While I’m all for new forms and experiments of any sort, Experience might’ve erred in mashing together a faux wedding reception and a dance party. They’re two very different creatures, the former requiring a highly structured mise en scène to be successful, the latter simply a good DJ, an atmospheric setting and dynamic lighting.
Fortunately, Wedding Party Experience has such a DJ in Kendall Burke who kept the music going with great tunes and added a natural enthusiasm to the proceedings. Likewise, I certainly enjoyed Chef Brian Sourita’s nibblies which included Caprese skewers and a mushroom ragout served on crisps as well as the requisite wedding cake.
Admittedly, the large crowd on a recent night seemed to be having a festive time, helped no doubt by complimentary shots of Crown Royal and perfect weather (I’m not sure what the plan is if it’s cold or rainy).
So if you’re looking to dance and party, by all means say “I do” to The Wedding Party Experience. If, however, you hope to have an immersive theatrical experience, as I was, “I don’t” might be the more appropriate response.
For more information and tickets, go to https://www.theweddingpartynola.com/
It’s a new year and before Carnival parades provide the “Greatest Free Show on Earth”, quite a few shows will be on the boards in the greater New Orleans area. They may not be free, but, hopefully, will be well worth the price of their tickets.
Through January 29, Le Petit Theatre presents The Color Purple, the musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Directed and choreographed by Donald Jones Jr., the Music Director for this production is acclaimed trombonist and record producer Delfeayo Marsalis. For tickets, go to www.lepetittheatre.com/listings/events//the-color-purple.html
Goat in the Road’s Roleplay, an original play that explores student experiences with love, sex, power, and consent, returns to Tulane University’s Lupin Theatre, Jan. 25-Feb. 5. Tickets are free but must be reserved. You can do so at https://www.goatintheroadproductions.org/#roleplay
At nearby Loyola University’s Marquette Hall, Crescent City Stage continues its season with Cry it Out (Jan. 26-Feb. 9) by Molly Smith Metzler. A regional premiere, it’s described as “a comedy with dark edges, which takes a look at the absurdities of being home with a baby, the power of female friendship, the dilemma of going back to work, and the effect class has on parenthood in America.” Tickets and more info at www.simpletix.com/e/cry-it-out-by-molly-smith-metzler-tickets-107457
Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan’s 2009 play Fly, about the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed group of African American military pilots and other Air Force personnel who fought in World War II, was seen last year at JPAS. Directed by Tommye Myrick, it returns February 3-25 to the WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen. More info and tickets are available at https://www.nationalww2museum.org/programs/fly
Intramural Theater, which memorably gave us The Cuck last year, premieres its newest original devised work, a subterranean horror-comedy titled CAVE at the Backyard Ballroom (January 13-27). CAVE tells the story of a sentient cave that exerts its influence over three unexpected visitors. The production, directed by Artistic Director Bennett Kirschner, features Mary Davis, Anna Karina Delage, Benjamin Dougherty, and C.A. Munn. Tickets and more info at https://www.intramuraltheater.org/cave
Over on the West Bank, JPAS presents Sistas the Musical by Dorothy Marcic at its Teatro Wego! (Jan. 27-Feb. 12). Sistas follows five women as they come together to clean out their matriarch’s home and discover fragments of their past. As they share stories and memories, they honor black women throughout history while performing top hits from the 1930s to the 1990s, from Billie Holiday to Beyonce. More info and tickets at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35874/production/1122141
While Jesus Christ Superstar finishes up its run at the Saenger Theatre this weekend, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical arrives on February 7 and stays thru the 12th. If you missed it on Broadway, here’s your opportunity to see this biomusical about the Grammy-winning singer who is simply the best. Tickets for both shows at https://www.saengernola.com/events
Another great singer will be heading to NOLA in February and this time it’s the real deal, not an avatar. Andrea Bocelli will make his New Orleans debut, courtesy of The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Smoothie King Center on February 11. We’re promised arias from Tosca, La Traviata, and Lucia di Lammermoor as well as Broadway hits, Neapolitan standards, and Nino Rota’s theme from The Godfather. More info at https://lpomusic.com/event/spektrix/43401ANGGNRSGBLDCHDJCRTGPDLNJKNPG/
Arias of a more contemporary nature can be heard in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird by composer Daniel Schnyder which New Orleans Opera will debut at the New Orleans Jazz Market January 20-22. The opera is about the dream of Parker to bridge the worlds of classical and jazz music With the aid of his mother Addie, three of his four wives, and his partner in the bebop jazz revolution, Dizzy Gillespie, Parker struggles to calm his demons and write his final masterpiece. More info and tickets at https://neworleansopera.org/charlie-parkers-yardbird-2023/
Want something a little less refined than Andrea Bocelli or Charlie Parker? Then get tickets for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo presented by NOBA at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on January 28. Last seen here in 2010, this all-male ballet troupe performs parodies of ballet classics, from Swan Lake to Les Sylphides en pointe and in tutus, as well as contemporary masterpieces, all with awe-inspiring virtuosity. Tickets and more info at https://nobadance.com/performances/les-ballets-trockadero-de-monte-carlo/
On the Northshore, Slidell Little Theatre starts the year off with Jitney (Jan. 27-Feb. 5), the eighth play in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. Jitney takes place in 1977 during Pittsburgh’s period of so-called “urban renewal.” As the city tries to shut down businesses, including the gypsy cab station where the play is set, to make way for a new building, we meet five cab drivers struggling to survive. More info at https://www.slidelllittletheatre.org/tickets/jitney-251861#buy
Mandeville’s 30 by Ninety Theatre did a superb job two years ago with Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, so I’m looking forward to their production of his Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Jan. 21-Feb. 5)which chronicles the playwright’s experience as a young staff writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. For tickets go to https://30byninety.com/shows/laughter-on-the-23rd-floor/
In Covington, Playmakers Theater presents Psych, “a wild ride of murder, mistaken identities and pizza”, in which successful psychiatrist Edward Baxter has been framed for murder and he’s now on the run with an assumed identity and a suspicious new wife. Psych opens Jan. 28 and runs through Feb. 12. Tickets are available through www.playmakersinc.com
And if you survive Mardi Gras and need a laugh, then head to Café Istanbul February 24 or 25 for Varla Jean Merman’s new show Ready to Blow. Originally planned for this past fall, the show had to be postponed after Ms. Merman slipped on a Tic Tac onstage in Provincetown and wound up breaking her leg. Of course, anything as fabulous as a VJM show is worth waiting for. More info at https://varlajean.com/schedule/2023/2/24/cafe-istanbul-new-orleans