La Cage aux Folles
New Theatre, Cardiff
Tuesday 31st January 2017
It’s been around 15 years since La Cage has been at New Theatre. Through great patience and excitement, it has finally returned.
Regarded as one of the best contemporary musicals, La Cage aux Folles can’t be underestimated. It’s impact on the gay and cross dressing culture has never gone away. It has charm with little vulgarity, fantastic songs that are catchy for days and a style all of its own.
The story of cross dressing Albin and his lover George is now infamous. The laters son Jean-Michelle (from a drunken fling) is getting married to the girl of his dreams: Anne. Sadly her parents are ultra conservative and a plot is created to kick mega camp Albin out of the house for a day and bring back the real mother. Chaos is ensured with more unsurprising cross dressing parts, attempts to be “straight acting” (we all now this doesn’t exist) and standing up for yourself and what you represent.
The story might be shorter for a musical of its length (the ending doesn’t feel like a big finale), but its the vibrant songs by Jerry Herman that are the pulling power of this musical. Each song is witty, charming and they seem to mirror each other brilliantly: I Am What I Am echoes We Are What We Are, the flamboyant opening number, With Anne on my Arm quickly becoming With You on My Arm, as both generations talk of their lovers and Look Over There is sung separately by father and son, both interpretations filled with insight and warmth. My personal favourites have to be Song on the Sand, I Am What I Am (obviously) and The Best of Times.
An hilarious element to the show is the joy of what might go wrong: a whip that won’t work, John Partridge slipping down stairs in his huge heels, a curtain which fell for no reason and Marti Webb fluffing a line. You saw the cast really enjoy these silly moments and because they did, we as an audience did too.
The sets and costumes are opulent and joyously OTT. You go along with the ride and can’t be bored by the amount of detail gone into it. John Partridge is sensational as Albin, though an American accent is missed and the Northern English style does clash times (his interactions with the audience were rather funny). With a super singing voice he belts I Am What I Am, the shows most important and famous number. We need this song more than ever, such is its iconic status as a gay ballad. Adrian Zmed is a smooth and delightful Georges, proving he has a decent singing voice, though not a lot of range in it. His dry humour and witty remarks are a plus.
The eternal Marti Webb in the small role of Jacqueline, still maintains a grand singing voice. We just wished she was in it more. The supporting cast were also well played with Dougie Carter and Alexandria Robinson as the young lovers, displaying some chemistry and aspiring stage presences. Jacob, the maid was performed by Samson Ajewole, feisty and very Northern sounding here. He pops in and out and is added comic refit to an already numerous cast. The troupe of singers and dancers are glorious in their drag personas, the definition of getting into character and loving every moment.
Lovers of really good musicals should not miss a trip to La Cage…
Fabulous and heart felt.
Rating: 4 stars
La Cage aux Follles continues at the New Theatre till 4th February 2017.
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