‘The Wild Party’ theater review — 2.5 stars

You know you’re a theater geek when you know both musical versions of “The Wild Party” and debate which is the best one — which I’ve done on rare occasion.

In 2000, two different musicals based on Joseph March’s lengthy 1928 poem about a boozy, sexed-up, absolutely reckless and violent Jazz Age party premiered in New York on top of each other. First came Andrew Lippa’s version, which received a short Off-Broadway run, and then there was Michael John LaChiusa’s, which flopped on Broadway.

As the final selection of this summer’s Encores! Off-Center series at City Center, the Lippa “Wild Party,” which has gained a cult following, is receiving its first major revival, with a cast led by Sutton Foster and Steven Pasquale.

Lippa, who has gone on to write “The Addams Family” and “Big Fish” for Broadway, wrote an ambitious and complex score that combines hot jazz with contemporary pop and operatic motifs. It’s a lot to take in on a first, or even a second, listen.

The musical focuses on the destructive relationship of vaudeville performers Queenie (Foster) and Burrs (Pasquale), which is threatened by the arrival of the attractive Mr. Black (Brandon Victor Dixon) plus other rowdy guests.

It tends to veer in and out of focus, and some parts are better than others. The production (directed by Leigh Silverman) is similarly uneven, often more stagnated than wild. Lippa’s rewrites for this production are, to say the least, questionable.

Pasquale is too handsome and downbeat for Burrs, but Foster is in fine form as a tragically lost Queenie. Miriam Shor briefly steals the show with the hilarious solo “An Old-Fashioned Love Story.”

Given the piece’s demands, it may have needed a longer rehearsal period than the kind afforded by the Off-Center series, and a more intimate venue than City Center. How about an environmental production where the audience feels as if it is part of the party?

If you go: “The Wild Party” plays through Saturday at City Center. West 55th Street between 7th and 6th Aves., nycitycenter.org.