Conundrum Theatre Company Gets Wild With New Musical

(Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader) - Appearing in her fifth Conundrum production, Nikki Yates skillfully took on the role of Kate on the Colony Theatre’s stage.

First published in the July 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

After a far-too-long dry spell, thespians, musicians, theatrical technicians and theater-goers alike are celebrating the post-pandemic return of live theater productions. And what better way to celebrate than to throw a party … a wild one!
That is exactly what the Burbank-based Conundrum Theatre Company did this past weekend as it presented Andrew Lippa’s musical, “Wild Party,” under the direction of Matthew Claiborne Karic at the Colony Theatre.
“Wild Party,” based on poet Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 risqué book-length poem of the same name, is a dark story of Roaring ‘20s-era entertainers Queenie and Burrs, who throw a decadent party in their Manhattan apartment in which the antics of their colorful and eccentric friends are fueled by great quantities of bathtub gin, which ultimately render them out of control, or dead.
When the controversial poem was published, after two years of being passed on, it became a huge success, largely because it had been banned in in Massachusetts by puritan officials who had wide authority to ban artistic works they found to be objectionable.
This, of course, made just about everyone clamor to read it and publishers of such material began to proudly tout the phrase: “Banned in Boston.”

Prior to Sunday evening’s performance, as the cast prepared in the Colony’s dressing rooms, Karic said that he had been captivated by the show when he first saw it and had always hoped to someday have the opportunity to direct it.
“There aren’t many people who are familiar with this show, and directors and musical directors tend to be hesitant to stage it because it’s heavy dark, and the musical arrangements are challenging, so it requires extremely talented musicians and singers,” Karic said.
“The music in this show is incredible,” Karic added. “It’s what really got me when I first saw it, and I was very fortunate to have been able to assemble a dream cast to do it. Whitney Vigil was born to play the role of Queenie, as were the other three leads, Iah Bearden-Vrai as Burrs, Omari Miller as Black, and Nikki Yates as Kate.”
Offering praise for the talents of the entire cast, Karic said it was a dream-come-true to be so fortunate to have such talented singers and musicians involved with the production.
Along with the leads, the show featured a supporting cast and ensemble composed of Luke Steinborn, Bianca Turner, Christina Healey, Jayde Mora, Amberlee Clark, Jack Colyer, Stefanie DeKalb, Adam Slemon, Mike Bowers, Arden Agos, Taylor Burrows, Kyle Critelli, Angelique Fustikjian, Tayler Green, Malin Hayden, Jordan Kaiser and Morgan Moessinger.
The music for last week’s staging of the steamy, jazzy, Prohibition-era whodunit was provided by musicians Alejandro Paz, Phil Moore, Eric Klerks, Sherry Luchette and Chris Rios under the direction of the company’s musical director Lisa Sedares and the show’s production manager Mike Bowers.
According to Sedares, who also serves as the president of the theater company’s board, Conundrum will soon be releasing the slate for its inaugural season that will begin this fall.
Although she was not specific when asked to reveal the four shows they will be doing, she was willing to say that the first one will be “Cabaret.”
Sedares said the company is also looking forward to its “Summer Riddles” program it will soon be starting in partnership with the Burbank Community YMCA’s youth summer camp.
Led by Conundrum’s education chairperson, Kate Clarke, that program will see local children between the ages of 6 and 13 do a performance of “The Little Mermaid.”
The Conundrum Theatre Company’s mission is to generate opportunities for experienced actors with traditional day jobs to create, produce and perform in innovative, high-quality theatrical productions while building a collaborative, diverse community of writers and actors.
For more information on the theatre’s upcoming productions, auditions, and contribution and sponsorships opportunities visit conundrumtheatreco.com.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.