Theatre Mirror Reviews - "La Cage aux Folles"

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note: entire contents copyright 1996 by Larry Stark


"La Cage aux Folles"

Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Based on the play "La Cage aux Folles" by Jean Poiret

Directed and Chroeographed by Barry Ivan
Musical Direction by Jim Coleman

Set Design by Gregory Hill
Lighting Design by Tom Sturge
Sound Design by Andrew E. Skomorowsky
Costume Design by Elspeth McClanahan
Hair & Makeup Design by George Fraggos
Production Stage Manager David Dreyfoos

Georges................................David Hess
Albin/Zaza............................Ross Lehman
Jean-Michel........................Kurt Kovalenko
Anne..................................Barbara May
Edouard Dindon.......................David Coffee
Mme. Dindon..........................Sarah deLima
"Jacob"...........................Ralph Cole, Jr.
Jacqueline..........................Lisa McMillan
Colette......................Gretchen Goldsworthy
Francis........................Christopher Sutton
M. Renaud............................Bruce Tilley
Mme. Renaud............................Carol Zins
Paulette.............................Adele Koehan
Hercule..............................Adrian Sicam
Etienne.................................Dan Stone
Fisherman........................Arnold Arencibia
Townspeople...Jennifer Gustafson, Mary MacDermott
"Les Cagelles"
Chantal.....Dante Sciarra
Hanna...........Steve Bay
Phaedra......Casey Colgan
Mercedes.....Bill Bateman
Angelique....Mary Rotella
Dermah...Andrew Parkhurst
Nicole.......Mark Winston
Bitelle......Heather Fern
Monique.......Tom Cochran
Odette...J. T. Horenstein



Jean-Michel has a problem. He wants to marry Ann, daughter of a militant moralist pledged to close all drag-act nightclubs --- and this rich M. Dindon must his family before blessing the union. But his father happens to own a drag-act club, and his father's lover is not only the only "mother" Jean-Michel has ever known, Albin is also "Zaza" the mascara-painted star of the show.

This is material for a predictable situation-comedy, or a forceful statement of gay pride and tolerance, or a leeringly exaggerated display of high-camp excess. The standing-ovation production of "La Cage aux Folles" at the North Shore Music Theatre answers this multiple-choice question: All of the above.

David Hess as father Georges, Kurt Kovalenko as Jean- Michel, and Ross Lehman as Albin clearly play human beings who love one another, a genuine family willing to make even hurtful sacrifices for the happiness of a boy in love. When stung by the necessity of hiding himself away from the boy's marriage, Aubin replies with the ringing proclamation "I Am What I Am" as the end of act one.

It's in act two that Director/Choreographer Barry Ivan either neglected to rein in his cast, or encouraged them to garish excesses, especially in the minor characters. Early on Ralph Cole, Jr. --- playing "Jacob" a self-infatuated butler/maid eager for one big chance to break into the chorus --- is wry, witty, wickedly winsom and electrically intense, but by his ultimate moment in feathery drag his performance plumbs the depths of low- camp self-indulgence, over the top and out of control.

Then there's the odd handling of Ann. She's an all but irrelevant plot-device, played by Barbara May, who is a lovely, dazzlingly expressive dancer. But she dances all the time. When she's the fanciful embodiment of young love this is delightful, but when she dances every step and motion in scenes where everyone else behaves realistically, it seems the oddly affected dance equivalent of recitative.

One problem in act two is turning "The Great Zaza" into a believable "Uncle Albin". A macho chorus dance-number helps, but of course the uncomfortable result would fool no one but an unobservant, obtuse buffoon.

Luckily David Coffee and Sarah deLima play the pompously pius Dindons as baggy-pants clowns. ("Dindon" in French does indeed mean "turkey" but, still... ) With antagonists like this, there's little contest. And when Lisa McMullin makes Jacqueline, a chic restauranteuse eager to help old friends, into yet another caricature, the last shreds of realism disappear.

North Shore has a reputation for spectacle, and so a technical staff of Scenic Designer Gregory Hill, Lighting Designer Tom Sturge, Costume Designer Elspeth McClanahan, Hair & Makeup Designer George Fraggos, Music Director Jim Coleman and Production Stage Manager David Dreyfoos, all working full-out and in top form, who are the secret stars of this lushly gaudy splash of scrumptious eye-candy. And Barry Ivan is well aware that his audience appreciates a lot of lithe, long, lovely legs all tap- dancing in tights --- even if it's hard to spot the two dancers in high heels who are female.

But in the calm eye of this high-camp tornado of maribou, sequins and situation-bombast, David Hess and Ross Lehman, making the life-long love between two extraordinary human beings come alive, truly deserve every night's standing ovation. Love,
===Anon

P.S.: Gretchen Goldsworthy, one of ten "St. Tropez Townspeople" with a character and a few lines, was familiar from an appearance at the InStages Cabaret, whre she proved she can handle an intimate room as expertly as she does this big main stage.

at
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
Dunham Road, BEVERLY
1(508)922-8500



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