The WookieeHut Presents
Theatre Review: La Cage aux Folles
Gillian F. Taylor
Photographs taken from www.dailymail.co.uk







For those who aren't familiar with the story (a French play, then a French/Italian film, an American musical, an American film (The Birdcage) and now a revival of the musical), here's a brief summary:

In the 1970's, Georges runs and compères a drag club in the south of France. The star of the show is Zaza, the alter-ego of Albin. Georges and Albin are both homosexual and have been lovers for 20+ years. They have raised Jean-Michel, who is Georges' son from a one-night-stand he had with a woman, out of curiosity.

Jean-Michel, who is heterosexual, announces he wishes to marry Anne, who is the daughter of a prominent conservative politician who is anti-gay and wishes to close down the drag clubs. Jean-Michel hasn't told her the truth about his father and 'mother'. Albin attempts to appear as 'Uncle Al', then appears to Anne's parents, in drag, as Jean-Michel's mother. It doesn't quite work, but all ends happily ever after.

The setting was intended to largely imitate that of the nightclub and at times the theatre audience were the audience of the club. The theatre has a low stage, with a short flight of steps leading into the auditurium, which was used by the cast for some exits and entrances. I was in the front row, at the bottom of the steps, so I had various cast members come and go right in front of me (not Denis, sadly). Right in front of the stage were four cabaret tables that you could book seats at. The people sitting there were addressed directly as nightclub audience during the club scenes. The cast spoke directly to them, flirted with them, danced on the tables and generally did their best to embarrass them. One of the Cagelles (chorus/dancers) rushed down the steps, flung up his feathery skirt to show his undies to me, put his hand on my knee and scampered off back to the stage.

The role of Albin is the more showy one, with the gorgeous frocks and wigs. Albin is a high-drama drag queen, but also very loving as Georges 'wife', and hurt when Jean-Michel doesn't want to admit that Albin is his 'mother'. Georges is flamboyant as the club's host, clearly the businessman of the partnership, but also devoted to his tempermental lover. Although Albin has the big showstopping number (I am What I Am), Georges actually sings more and is on stage almost all the time. Both actors were excellent, with Douglas especially moving when Albin is genuinely hurt by Jean-Michel's initial wish for him to avoid meeting his fiancée's parents. He also did some wonderful physical comedy when Georges is trying to coach him into acting like a real man as Uncle Al (not that Georges is very macho himself) Denis was a treat as Georges; he's an excellent singer and light on his feet across the stage and when he dances. They played up his relatively slight stature compared to Douglas a couple of times, having Georges leap into Albin's arms at the end of one number. He also holds a balloon on top of his head to have it burst by a whip wielded by one of the Cagelles, which was an impressive display of trust.

The half-dozen Cagelles are stars too, though they don't have much dialogue. They are the chorus 'girls' of the club: all muscular blokes wearing a variety of fabulous and often skimpy costumes. They squeal, bitch, shimmy and bounce around the club in a terrific display of dancing skill and energy. The highlight is probably the can-can routine, complete with cartwheels, high kicks and the splits. They add a lot of colour and energy to the show, as does Jacob — hired as Albin's butler, he prefers to be a maid. The actor was astonishingly flexible and did some lovely physical comedy.

Everyone looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves. I'd like to be there for the final night, on the 2nd January, as I suspect it would be quite a show. And if I could, I'd choose a seat at the cabaret table right where Denis lies down on the stage to sing to the audience and charm the people sitting just in front of him. He was almost within arm's length of where I was sitting. For all that he's just over 60 now, he's very lithe, light on his feet, charismatic and capable of putting great energy into his performance. It would be a great show with someone else as Georges (at one point, the role was played by the lovely Steven Pacey, who was in the sci-fi show, I), but it was even better to have the show *and* Denis.


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