Judging by the disappointing number of empty seats, audiences are apparently unsure of La Cage Aux Folles. Maybe it’s the French name.
They needn’t worry though – it’s everything you’ve come to know and love about big, camp musicals.
If you’ve seen the Robin Williams film The Birdcage, it’s that.
La Cage Aux Folles is a drag nightclub on the French Rivera. It’s owned by Georges (Adrian Zmed) whose partner Albin (John Partridge) is the star of the show, or rather, his alter-ego Zaza is.
Georges and Albin’s son Jean Michele returns home and announces he is getting married and has invited his future in-laws for dinner. It’s not that simple though, his future father-in-law a super duper conservative politician who wants to shut down the Riviera’s ‘immoral’ drag clubs.
Fearing he will destroy his hopes of marriage, Jean Michele bans Albin from attending the dinner. In his place will be Jean-Michele’s biological mother, who has been absent for most of his life. And so the farce begins…
La Cage Aux Folles boasts some of theatre’s great showtunes, particularly I Am What I am and With You On My Arm. The choreography and costumes are wonderfully glitzy, flamboyant and perfectly realised.
Partridge’s portrayal of Albin/Zaza is perfect. Brash, bold, camp, funny and very Northern! Partridge owned the stage and stole every scene he was in, and was wickedly funny in some scenes more reminscent of stand-up. His singing voice was great, and he completely owned I Am What I Am, emotionally and vocally.
The stand out singing voice for me though was Dougie Carter as Jean-Michele. His voice has a beautiful depth and richness to it. His rendition of With Anne On My Arm was a lovely performance.
In the early scenes, Adrian Zmed seemed uneasy on stage. His stilted delivery and fumbled lines felt like we were watching a dress rehearsal, but as the show’s energy increased, so did his confidence.
In fact, pacing is La Cage’s biggest issue. Scenes set on the club’s stage spark and fizz, but nearly everything that takes place behind the scenes grinds to a halt. Fortunately, the big song and dance numbers are so strong they pull the whole show along in their current, but there’s a lot of work to be done.
A lot of attention has been lavished on other – often overlooked – elements of the show. Not only are the costumes stunning (as you’d expect for a show about drag queens), but the live musicians are note-perfect and never overpowering, while the stage looks incredible when dressed to look like the La Cage club.
This touring production of La Cage Aux Folles is still at a very early stage in its run, but with a cast and crew of this calibre, we can expect every element to be immaculate in short order.
La Cage Aux Folles was reviewed at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury. Find out more about the UK tour at http://www.kenwright.com/microsite/la-cage-aux-folles