Theatre Mirror Reviews - "La Cage Aux Folles"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

"La Cage aux Folles"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport,CT is the 1983 hit Jerry Herman musical, "La Cage Aux Folles". It won six Tony awards including best musical of the 1983-84 season. "La Cage" is a flamboyant musical comedy about love,life, and family values in a decidedly unconventional family. Georges runs a notorious and glittering drag queen nightclub, starring Albin, aka ZaZa, Georges' long time lover. They have a happy if stormy life together, but when Georges' son announces his engagement to the daughter of a bigoted narrow-minded politician, their efforts to "play it straight" for a meeting with the in-laws result in high insanity mixed with some wonderfully poignant moments along the way. The enchanting score contains twelve musical numbers including Albin's unforgetable anthem for acceptance and dignity, "I Am What I Am". That is the theme of the play, just be who you are, don't change yourself to fit another person's point of view. Director/choreographer Gary John La Rosa does a brilliant job on this show, leading his twenty member cast in this joyous musical extravaganza as does musical director Bill Stanley who not only leads a seven piece orchestra but plays the piano, too, making this one of the must see shows of this theater season.

The production values of this show are of the highest quality from the set to costumes to wigs to lighting and sound, proving that Gary John surrounds himself with topnotch people. His direction and blocking of this huge show is amazing. The dance numbers also shine with their variety of tap, can can, jazz, tumbles and somersaults. The true mettle of a show is in the thematic statement presentation and this show is successful because Gary moves the audience to tears several times with the pathos you feel in Jean-Michel's rejection and later acceptance of Albin as the person (mother figure) who raised him as well as in the tender scenes between Albin and Georges. Bravo for making me cry in this mostly humourous show. Bill's direction of the solos, duets and chorus numbers and the orchestra shine throughout the evening as his expertise is seen from start to finish. The numerous set pieces and backdrops are created by Jeff Modereger and the sets fly in and out so quickly that each scene flows into another. Stage managers, Gail Eve Malatesta and Karen Meek run a tight ship, making sure everyone is onstage for their cues and the scenes meld into one another. The numerous wigs are by Davion Edwards and Jason Hayes is the hair and wig stylist who makes the men wearing them look like real women while the multitude of costumes especially ZaZa's brocaded gowns and the many Cagelles costumes are by Lydia Gladstone and her assisant, Jimmy Johansmeyer. The lighting changes from the larger to the more intimate scene lighting are by Hugh Hallinan and the sound is by Joe Boerst.(This shows how many people you need to handle an enormous production like "La Cage".)

The two leads, James Van Treuren and David Young as Georges and Albin are dynamite performers, doing an excellent job in their roles. James plays the more masculine role of Georges who owns the nightclub and has sired a son from a one night stand with a woman. He is the emcee at his club but also has some lovely songs, too including "Song on the Sand" when he remininces about the first time he met Albin ( one of my favorites) the tender "Look Over There" when he reminds his son that Albin really raised him for 24 years and not to reject him and the duet with Albin called "With You on My Arm". One of the funniest numbers is "Masculinity" where Georges and the townspeople try to butch Albin up to meet the in-laws.( It is a big dance number full of punching moves pelvic thrusts where the men try to show him how to act.) David plays the more feminine role but he captures the audience's sympathy with his likeable portrayal. He transforms himself from Albin to Za Za in front of the audience in his first number, "A Little More Mascara". ( It reminds you when Cervantes turns himself into Don Quixote in "Man of La Mancha" by doing his makeup onstage.) David struts around in these gorgeous gowns while singing the title song with the Cagelles but he steals your heart in his "I Am What I Am" number. He throws the others offstage and declares in the song that he will not change himself for anyone, including Georges. The dramatic finish is when he throws he wig off at Georges feet in defiance, leaving the audience cheering him at the close of the first act. David shows his true love for Jean-Michel by pretending to be his mother, making the boy realize that he was wrong to try to thrust him aside. David also sings "The Best of Times" with their longtime friend, Jacqueline at her restaurant. (Melody Jones, a gorgeous blonde plays this sassy broad who saves the day later on for them.) The show ends with James and David alone on the stage doing a reprise of "Song on the Sand" leaving you with a lump in your throat as they realize their life together will survive and their love will continue as strongly as before. Bravo on a job well done.

Other cast members include Tituss Burgess who plays the butler, Jacob who prances about the stage demanding that Georges refer to him as the maid. Tituss is a scream in this hilarious role and he eventually gets to be in the nightclub scene. Brian Kremer plays Jean-Michel who is a bit rude to his father and Albin by his uncaring attitude but transforms into a caring person by show's end by singing the lovely, "Look Over There" reprise which is another poignant moment. (This scene is reminiscent of older Patrick in "Mame" when he sings "My Best Girl" to his aunt when he realizes the error of his ways.) Brian also shows off his strong singing voice in "With Anne on My Arm" when he tells his father about the girl he has chosen to marry. Amy Love is Anne who dances in and out of this number and later appears with her parents played by Barry Ford and Marci Bing who do a great job as the snooty and haughty, Dindons. (There is a very funny song called "Cocktail Counterpoint" where a dish is thrown around by Georges and his son.) The beaten up stage manager of the nightclub, Francis is played by Reed Davis who appeared in three shows at Theatre by the Sea this past summer. Reed is not only a fine actor (especially when he does scenes with the whip loving German, Hanna played hysterically by Christopher Crowthers who did an excellent job as a cagelle) but is an accomplished dancer as well.( he struts his stuff with the male chorus in "Masculinity".) The other Cagelles are played by Brad Hoff, Zahif Corkidi, Rob Ouellette, Gabriel Beck, Jennifer Stetzler, Joe Komara, maria Gismondi and Kristian Korsgaard. They did a fantastic job singing and dancing in this show in their chorus numbers and I especially loved the can can and tap dances. Rounding out this huge cast is Katie Cameron and Mark Martino as M. & Mme. Renaud and Craig Woythaler as Etienne. Kudos to all who made this a successful show. So for a fabulous evening of theatre at its best be sure to go to "La Cage" in Bridgeport. You won't be disappointed. Happy Holidays and have a successful run.(You can also bring lunches and suppers to eat at the theatre because it is cabaret style seating at tables and you can bring your own drinks, too.)

"La Cage aux Folles" (31 October - 8 February)
DOWNTOWN CABARET THEATRE
263 Golden Hill Street, BRIDGEPORT CONN
1 (203) 576-1636

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