LA CAGE AUX FOLLES HAS IT ALL
My first encounter with La Cage aux Follies was in the early hours of the morning whilst living in Australia in the 80’s!
I had just finished my late night shift at the studios and was unwinding in front of the T.V. When suddenly on came this black and white sub-titled film that my mother back in England had been telling me about for years and I had never had the chance to see. She had told me how it made her laugh out loud and was so funny and yet touching. Laughing and crying well into the night I was hooked on La Cage.
Since then I’ve found most different versions extremely funny and at the same time poignant. But for me, I will always remember watching that first black and white film version without any music as it was one of the very best.
La Cage aux Folles began life in the 70s as a French stage farce from there it progressed to the screen and 1982 the musical was born, followed 20 years later by the film version ‘The Birdcage’
The play tells the story of Albin and Georges, a gay couple, who run a Saint-Tropez drag nightclub. Georges had a son, Jean-Michele, who is straight, from a one night stand with a glamorous showgirl.
Jean-Michele tells his father he has fallen in love and is getting married but unfortunately his intended’s parents are puritanical types, who think none too kindly of homosexuals. Her father is the leader of the Traditional Family and Morality Party and has firm and strict views on how people should behave. When the time comes for the two sets of parents to meet, all manner of chaos occurs.
Director, Martin Connor has assembled a dream production team with electrifying choreography by Bill Dreamer, spectacular sets, costumes, wigs and musical production .
La Cage pulsates with glamour, glitz and energy that spills over the proverbial footlights – but eagerness to create the spectacular has resulted in some of the touching and poignant moments been stifled or lost.
As Georges, Adrian Zmed ,balances the difficult role beautifully. He is the lynch pin of the show and contributes by moving the dialogue and plot along impeccably. Vocally he hits the right balance and his Song in the Sand was perfection the best I have heard it sang.
Character-wise John Partridge’s Albin tends to lose its way at times and become a little self indulgent. He cultivates a characterization and then especially in an overly long cabaret style act in Act 1, he lets it slip and thus spoiling most of what he has previously created.
In the musical numbers, however, he is perfection. The emotion filled I Am What I Am was so cleverly controlled and superbly performed whilst in the high kicking fast numbers he’s totally amazing – brash, brazen and with vitality plus.
Dougie Carter as Jean-Michelle is what used to be termed as a real matinee idol. He’s the perfect young romantic lead fine in voice and he really looks the part. Carter blends perfectly with Alexandra Robinson’s sweet but feisty Anne in every way.
La Cage Aux Follies couldn’t be staged without a myriad of cameo roles which in this production are of the very best. Marti Webb is a sophisticated Jacqueline whilst I loved Su Douglas’s Mdme Renaud especially in The Best of Times number and what a brave lady she was negotiating those steep stairs with such confident elegance.
But the ultimate stars of the show are those young men who are The Cagelles – who dance amazingly in killer heels, sing and look absolutely stunning with figures and legs to die for!
La Cage Aux Follies is a show with a tremendous feel good factor and even now I am singing the songs as I go about my daily life – although I pass on doing high kicks in my killer heels.
The show runs at Bradford Alhambra until 22nd July.
Liz Coggins is a member of the Critics Circle.