Take two sets of jealous lovers, infuse them with the libidinous sensuality and predatory cunning of the bed-hopping conspirators from “Dangerous Liaisons” and place them at the corrupted heart of a story involving jazz, sex and violence and you have “The Wild Party.” Composer Andrew Lippa’s musical adaptation of a 1928 poem of the same name is at once an ear-friendly tribute to the jazz-age sounds of 1920s Manhattan and its consuming passions and an attempt to dramatize a collage of complicated characters and their abrasive mores. Structurally, it’s a challenging piece: the frenetic energy of a nonstop parade of first-act introductions and miniature musical character studies is noticeably missing from a second act heavy with ballads and scenes that try unsuccessfully to imbue the piece with a palpable sense of loss, one of the original source material’s darker themes. Living up to their company name, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble has wisely played up the debauchery in a sexy and freewheeling Chicago premiere boasting impressive production values, high-caliber singing and probably the hardest-working supporting ensemble on a Chicago musical stage right now. Indeed, in portraying the pansexual libertines that round out the guest list—and as assisted by director Stephen M. Genovese’s fluid, cinematic staging and choreographer Brenda Didier’s stylized dance moves—a motley crew of white, ethnic, burly, waiflike and everything-in-between singer-actors have created distinct characters and personalities that are as intoxicating as anything their hosts could fix at the bar. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“The Wild Party” plays at Stage Left Theatre, 3408 North Sheffield, (773)791-2393, through August 13.