Friday, 21 November 2014

La Cage Aux Folles, Nov 22, 2014 ***

Book by Harvey Fierstein & Lyrics & Music by Jerry Herman; based on play by Jean Poiret 
By The Production Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 21 to Dec 7, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published online in Herald Sun on Mon Nov 24, 2014 then in print thereafter. KH

  Todd McKenney & Les Cagelles

La Cage Aux Folles, with its bevy of pert transvestites, seems to be terminally titillating to an audience that has probably never rubbed up against a drag queen – so to speak.

TV dance show judge and hoofer, Todd McKenney, relishes the opportunity to mince, prance and dazzle in glittering gowns and fabulous wigs when playing flamboyant, over-sensitive Albin.

Simon Burke is suitably elegant and decorative as Georges, Albin’s straight-acting gay, long-term partner and owner of renowned St. Tropez cabaret, La Cage Aux Folles, where Albin stars nightly as the celebrated drag queen, ZaZa.

Georges and Albin’s vivid but stable world totters when Georges’ son, Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino), announces that he is bringing the Dindons (Gary Sweet, Marg Downey), the arch-conservative parents of his fiancĂ©e (Emily Milledge) to meet his own “parents”.

La Cage is playful, vivacious, silly and entertaining and the musical numbers are the most successful components of this production directed by Dean Bryant with musical direction by Matthew Frank and choreography by Andrew Hallsworth.

Burke, who played the role of Georges in London, has a warm, tuneful voice singing Song On The Sand and Look Over There, and his duet with McKenney, With You On My Arm, captures the romantic history of this unconventional couple.

After the poignant moment when Albin realises that he will be banished during the Dindons’ visit, McKenney sings a rousing rendition of I Am What I Am, the best-known song in this show.

Both Burke and McKenney settle more comfortably into the show by the second half, and both have fun teasing the audience with their improvised banter.   

McKenney’s musical numbers with the outrageous chorus, Les Cagelles, are the highlights of the show as he prowls the stage in stilettos and platinum wigs, belting out the title song.

Les Cagelles, a chorus of lean, pretty, trashy, drag queens, demand our attention with their glitzy, skimpy costumes (Owen Phillips), high-kicking dance routines and impertinent characters that sing, “We love how it feels/ Putting on heels, causing confusion.”

The formidable Rhonda Burchmore almost steals her scenes as Jacqueline, the sassy restaurant owner, and she belts out a mean tune with McKenney and the chorus in The Best of Times.

Aljin Abella’s perky portrayal of Albin’s dresser-butler who wears a saucy, French maid’s uniform, tickles the audience.

The dialogue is a bit bumpy in the scenes between the songs, but La Cage Aux Folles is a bit of gaudy amusement for the Silly Season.

By Kate Herbert
Simon Burke and Todd McKenney

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