“We want you to panic! We want you to take action! You have stolen our future, and we want it back!”
WILD: A MUSICAL BECOMING of the American Repertory Theater doesn’t hold back in his post, and frankly, he shouldn’t. With a book by V (formerly Eve Ensler) and a score by Justin Tranter and Caroline Pennell (with contributions by V and Idina Menzel), WILD forces her audience to think about the choices they make and how they impact the future. .
WILD is set in a small fictional farming town called Outskirtsia in a future where climate change has had an even bigger impact on the world than it is today. We meet Bea (played by Idina Menzel) and Sophia (played by YDE), a mother and daughter farming couple. Bea is on the verge of financial ruin and tries to find a way to save her farm and provide for her daughter. Sophia is a passionate young woman who learns just how bad the weather situation really is. The show explores the generational divide when it comes to climate and other social and economic issues.
The score is incredibly energizing and uses a variety of genres to tell the story. The opening number, “Bouches à nourrir”, sets the tone for the show. This song fits into the genre of country / folk music that helps tell audiences where the show is going and helps introduce people they meet. In the world of entertainment, the stop number of WILD’s show “Panic” is written by the children of Outskirtsia. Tranter and Pennell use more of a pop-punk style of music for this act which really separates it from acts which are more focused on the adults of the city.
The book, however, made me want more. The dialogue seemed disconnected from the score and didn’t seem so fleshed out. It was as if the script was just there to take the show from song to song. At one point, the show did a full 180 and turned into a fantastic musical. There was no sign of this coming and it seemed really hit and miss. However, it is a “musical becoming”. I can’t wait to see how the script will flesh out in the future.
The night’s standout performances came from the “kids” of the show, including YDE. YDE’s vocal talent and acting ability was truly amazing. She was able to impose a presence on a stage full of Broadway alumni and really make us feel for her character. I was also impressed with Paravi Das (Forte) and Luke Ferrari (Possible). They served as friends to Sophia and helped us understand the thoughts of the young people in Outskirtsia better. They had incredible acting and vocal skills.
The group led by David Freeman Coleman (Music Director and Keyboards) and starring Jordan Carter (drums) and Serena Jade Miller (guitar) were a fantastic addition to the show. There was never a moment when I felt they weren’t together or where I felt they dominated the voice.
Diane Paulus (director and artistic director of ART) and the team made many decisions that contributed to the “green message of the show”. For example, clients SiiGii, Roy Caires, and Tommy Cole used recycled denim in all of their suits. The set was reused from the ART production of Macbeth in Stride (designed by Dan Soule) with the addition of sculptures from a company-hosted event at the Arnold Arboretum. On top of that, there were no physical programs. Instead, the audience was able to scan a QR code that brought up a digital program.
Overall this presentation was an amazing experience. The energy in the room the night I attended was unlike any other I have experienced in my theatrical experience. I can’t wait to see WILD’s journey and hope to someday see a fully produced production of the show.
WILD: A MUSICAL BECOMING is playing at the American Repertory Theater through January 2. The show is directed by Diane Paulus and features choreography by Chanel DaSilva. The cast includes Brittany Campbell (Oak), Deborah S. Craig (Ms. Maybe), Paravi Das (Forte), Luke Ferrari (Possible), Josh Lamon (Mr. Rail), Kingsley Leggs (Mayor Maybe), Idina Menzel (Bea), Javier Munoz (M. Custom), YDE (Sophia) and Michael Williams (Bicker Rail). The show also features members of the Boston Children’s Chorus. The lighting is designed by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew and the sound by Alex Giorgetti. The show was cast by Stewart / Whitley. Hope Villanueva serves as production manager. Idina Menzel is confirmed to play the role of Bea until December 23. Crystal Monee Hall will perform from December 27 to January 2. Tickets can be purchased at americanrepertorytheater.org