Critic's Choice: 'La Cage aux Folles' back in rousing revival
After a 20-year interval, Marriott Theatre is revisiting “La Cage aux Folles” with a production whose staging captures the razzle-dazzle glitter of Broadway with creative choreography, eye popping costumes and lavish dance numbers.
Based on a French farce by Jean Poiret and inspired by a subsequent film, “The Birdcage,” the award-winning musical is directed by Joe Leonardo. It’s a deja vu experience for Leonardo who also directed the previous production. “La Cage” is based on a book by Harvey Fierstein with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman – “The Best of Times" and “I Am What I Am."
Set in a gaudy Saint Tropez nightclub, the play stars David Hess and Gene Weygandt as Georges and Albin, two gay men partnered in a 20-year relationship.
The director’s notes succinctly sum up the show’s essence: “The story ... is ultimately not about drag queens and chic Riviera nightclubs and moralistic politicians, although all of them are there, but about family and acceptance and parenting and love. Perhaps this show is more relevant today to a wider audience than when it was written 32 years ago.”
Albin, an aging transvestite, fears his career as a featured nightclub performer is winding down as is his relationship with Georges, emcee at the club. “It’s time to be someone other than me,” he exclaims, donning makeup and gender-changing apparel as he sings “A Little More Mascara.”
As the story unfolds, 24-year-old Jean-Michel (Brian Bohr) tells his father Georges that he’s engaged to be married. Adding to the bombshell announcement is the revelation that his intended, the comely Anne (Elizabeth Telford), is the daughter of a homophobic, overbearing ultra conservative politician (nicely overplayed by Fred Zimmerman) who wants to meet Jean-Michel’s family.
Hard feelings arise when Jean-Michel requests that Albin make himself scarce during the visit. Meanwhile, the visit is presaged by Anne expressing pleasure anticipating the family meeting, telling her beau he is “so lucky to have ‘normal’ parents.”
“La Cage” has a strong supporting cast that includes, among others, Susan Moniz, as an insistent restaurateur; Joseph Anthony Byrd as Jacob, a histrionic housemaid-dancer; and a high-stepping all-male chorus of drag dancers known as Les Cagelles: J Tyler Whitmer, Raymond Interior, Adam Estes, Jordan Fife Hunt, Clayton Cross, Zachary L. Gray and Jhardon DiShon Milton.
Ryan T. Nelson provides music direction; Melissa Zaremba, choreography; Thomas M. Ryan, set design; and Nancy Missimi, unforgettable costume design.