Theatre Mirror Reviews - "La Cage Aux Folles"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


music and lyrics by Jerry Herman
book by Harvey Fierstein
based on the play “La Cage Aux Folles” by Jean Poiret
directed by M. Bevin O’Gara
choreographed by Michelle Estrada
musical direction by Don Ringuette

Georges … Bradford Morse
Albin … Christopher Hagberg
Jean-Michel … Ronny Pompeo
Anne … Melissa Prusinski
Jacob … Paul Giragos
M. Dindon … Jeffrey B. Phillips
Mme. Dindon … Linda Monchik
Phaedra … Heather Beardsley
Jacqueline … Nicole Bertucci
Hercule … Stephen Blinn
Babette … Heather Boas
Paulette … Milena Buls
Mme. Renaud … Olivia Doran
Hanna … Michael Hogman
Derma … JD Leggett
Francis … Ben Markham
Chantal … John Pirroni
Sparkle … Sparkle


Conductor … Jerome LeRoy
Bass … Ben Davenny
Cello … Jonah Sacks
Clarinet; Alto Sax … Lindsay Sample
Clarinet; Tenor Sax … Andy Bergman
French Horns … Yuko Yamamura; Courtney Powers
Flute; Piccolo … Deborah Suk
Oboe; English Horn … Emily Yu
Trombone … Danny Boselovic
Trumpet … Alexander Dechenne
Violins … Brian Ross; Windy Setiadi

The Longwood Players closes its season with Jerry Herman’s musical LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, a smash hit over twenty years ago that now takes on a new dimension with its smiling but unwaivering stance against intolerance and its own celebration of love, marriage and the family unit: Georges is the owner and emcee of “La Cage Aux Folles”, a successful drag nightclub on the French Riviera; his partner Alban is its main attraction as “Zaza” --- they bicker, as long-time couples will, yet remain devoted to each other. Georges’ son Jean-Michel upsets things with his engagement to Anne, the daughter of M. Dindon, a homophobic politician. The prospective father-in-law wants to meet (and inspect) the young man’s parents but what is to be done with Alban who has raised Jean-Michel as his own son and who has been more of a mother to him than Jean-Michel’s distant, biological one? I am not familiar with the original play but Harvey Fierstein’s book is faithful enough to the celebrated French film version, and Jerry Herman’s catchy score includes the winking title song, the nostalgic “Song on the Sand”, the anthem “I Am What I Am” (once covered by Gloria Gaynor) and, especially, “The Best of Times”, the happiest of showstoppers and finales.

Under M. Bevin O’Gara’s direction, the Longwood production is actually quite good (and soapbox-free). First, let me grumble --- the manual scene changes are clumsy and retard the flow; the orchestra’s horn section is sour --- and now let me praise: Christopher Hagberg and Sparkle have tailored their costume, hair and make-up designs to their performers so that Zaza and Les Cagelles (four males; one female) are all sorts of believable sizes and shapes rather than being pressed into a standard drag-mould. These particular Cagelles would be more at home in the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts than at the Follies Bergčres but they move and sing well, especially John Pirroni’s big, beautiful Chantal who contributes some breathtaking countertenor notes.

The evening’s glory is the Georges-Alban relationship: Bradford Morse is a handsome-enough, dapper-enough Georges and his silken, yet virile, rendition of “Song on the Sand”, backed by an accordion and a lone streetlamp, suddenly shifts the production from the merely entertaining to the memorable. His Georges is playful and affectionate throughout, resulting from true give-and-take with Christopher Hagberg’s mercurial Alban who has his expected huffy moments but who is also a shy, nurturing man --- when the toothy Mr. Hagberg appears as Zaza, his creation is a good-natured broad from an Old West saloon and “I Am What I Am” becomes an affecting self-pepper-upper rather than a gauntlet flung into the audience’s face. Indeed, Mr. Morse’s “husband” wouldn’t be so engaging if Mr. Hagberg’s “wife” didn’t know when to gently acquiesce (and when NOT to steal a scene) and they end the evening not only in a kiss but also in a happy, happy tie.

"La Cage Aux Folles" (22-30 April)
Cambridge Family YMCA Theatre, 820 Massachusetts, Avenue, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (866) 811-4111

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide