Review | La Cage aux Folles
It's hard — and painful — to believe that back in 1983 when the musical La Cage aux Folles first came out, some hateful people protested, simply because it showed two gay men in love. I'm betting that some of those protesters' marriages hadn't lasted as long as the 20 years that the play's Albin and Georges had been together.
So it was great to be in a nearly full house on opening night of La Cage at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre and see everybody there — including those of us of a certain age — as they cheered, applauded, laughed and gave a well-deserved standing ovation to the theater's truly marvelous production of this sweet, beautiful, love-filled show.
Congratulations to director Karla Hartley; music director Bill Cusick; choreographer Jill Godfrey — egad, those three big production numbers (one opening the show, the can-can, the colorful parasol dance) are a show in themselves; set designer Tom Hansen; sound designer Gerald Michaels; and a totally astounding 18-member cast led by the absolutely superb Steven Flaa as Albin (please, stop me if I'm not using enough superlatives).
Brian Minyard as Georges is warm and appealing, just the right foil to Flaa's flamboyant, sensitive, insightful, but sometimes petulant Albin. Minyard's Georges is contained and rational, but still gets the best line (and biggest laugh) in the whole show, which I will not give away.
A real sweetheart is Patrick Marshall Jr. as Jacob (say it "Jay-KOBE" with a long "o"), the couple's butler who wants to be called a maid and ultimately to join the female impersonators at Georges' ornate nightclub next door. Marshall has had supporting and ensemble roles at the Show Palace before, but in this one he gets to sing and dance in the spotlight. What a treat.
Kaleb Lankford as Georges' grown-up son Jean Michel smoothly sings and dances with his fiancee Anne (an adorable Molly Anne Ross), daughter of the clueless politician Edouard Dindon (nicely done by Pete Clapsis) and his slightly dopey wife Mme. Dindon (a delightful Ellie Pattison). Lankford's Jean Michel rejects Albin, but he never comes across as cruel, just abysmally imperceptive. But I do wish he'd position himself more toward the audience when he gives his big speech near the end of the second act. Those of us on the north side of the theater couldn't see him well enough to really enjoy it, and it's a doozy to be savored, the true climax of the play.
Millicent Hunnicutt is sassy and smart as nightclub owner Jacqueline, who becomes the key to Dindon's humiliation. And Christoff Marse is a hoot as stage manager Francis, who endures cracked bones and a sprained neck for his love of the whip-slinging drag queen Hannah from Hamburg (Bo Price).
The nine dancers — five men, four women — called Les Cagelles, each deserve praise, though it's difficult to tell who from what through all that makeup and opulent costuming. Just give plaudits to Logan O'Neill as Mercedes, Kevin Korczynski as Chantal, Vince Orabona as Dermah, Casey Hicks as Phaedra, Megan Morgan as Odette, Kate O'Connell as Bitelle, Christie Rorh as Angelique, and Price and Alexus Nagy as swing dancers, who can step in for almost anyone in the show if need be.
Composer/lyricist Jerry Herman created many of his best songs for this show: We Are What We Are, With You on My Arm, Song on the Sand, and The Best of Times. Of course, there is no song in the Broadway songbook as touching as Look Over There, when George reminds his son from a one-night-stand 25 years earlier that his birth mother isn't his "real" mother, that it is instead the cross-dressing, sometimes embarrassing Albin, who held the boy's hand in sickness, supported him in sadness, gave up vacations and trips to take care of him, catered to his every need and should be appreciated and not hidden away when some snotty, gay-hating politician shows up for a visit. Cheesum, I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.
Writer Harvey Fierstein's script is insightful, intelligent and brilliant. Herman and Fierstein deserved the Tony and Drama Desk awards and nominations they got, and there were many.