Book by Harvey Fierstein
Based on the play by Jean Poiret
Directed by Joe Leonardo
Choreographed by Melissa Zaremba
Musical Direction by Ryan T. Nelson
At Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire
Stunningly visual and romantically heartfelt with loads of laughs make La Cage Aux Folles a hit
Jerry Herman is one of two composer/lyricists in history to have three musicals run more than 1500 performances on Broadway: Hello Dolly (2,844), Mame (1,508), and La Cage aux Folles (1,761). I believe that his 1983 Tony Award winning La Cage aux Folles is his most memorable score. La Cage is a funny farce of French Rivera drag clubs and a cute family relations comedy. This romantic musical is rarely mounted here due mainly to its lavish costumes and the need to have a lovable, funny yet swishy man play Albin, the star drag queen. But with the creativity from costume designer Nancy Missimi and two terrific leads, Marriott Theatre’s 2015 production is stunning. Director Joe Leonardo, revisiting La Cage from his 1994 production, decided to have Gene Weygandt play Albin – a wise decision since Weygandt has the acting and comic chops to deliver. And he sure does!
Weygandt’s Albin anchors La Cage as the ‘mother’ figure and star drag queen in a family that has David Hess’s Georges, La Cage’s MC, the ‘father’ figure with their straight son Jean-Michel (Brian Bohr). This close knit loving family has a crisis when Jean-Michel announces he is marrying Anne (Elizabeth Telford), the daughter of a right-wing homophobic French politician. We enjoy the outlandish campy swishiness of Jacob (Joesph Anthony Byrd) – Albin’s personal assistant and dresser. He is a hoot!
After we witness one of the most impressive opening numbers in Broadway history “We Are What We Are,” which features the Les Cagelles dressed to the hilt in sequined dress, high heels, large feathered hats. This chorus is made up of guys and girls who attempt to dazzle and entice us into La Cage’s mystique. David Hess, as the MC, establishes the allure with sweet showmanship. Audiences are both shocked and amused with this terrific number.
Gene Weygandt firmly establishes his transition from Albin to Zaza with the profound “A Little More Mascara” anthem. Brian Bohr is the charming boy-next-door, as Jean-Michel, wins us with his charming love song to Anne “With Anne on My Arm.” He convinces his father Georges to have the swishy Albin out of the house during Anne’s family’s visit. Georges tries to tell his love Albin in their reprise of “With You on My Arm.” Their visit to the beach café results in the haunting love song “Song on the Sand” when we see how deep their love is.
Ultimately Albin loves George and Jean-Michel so much that he’ll do what it takes to make them happy. His feminine gay side comes out during the drag act when he stops the show with his personal solo “I Am What I Am.” This anthem resonates deeply.
Act two finds Georges and the cafe owners trying to ‘butch-up’ Albin so he can be introduced to Anne’s parents as uncle Al. The cute “Masculinity” song is a hoot! Jean-Michel is so worried about Albin spoiling his marriage plans that he turns on Albin. Georges reminds him of Albin’s love and nurturing in the fine “Look Over There.”
Things seem to work out when Albin, dresses as conservative women and becomes Jean-Michel’s mother. Mr. Dindon (Fred Zimmerman) is impressed and all celebrate the engagement with the roaring “The Best of Times” tribute to hope and happiness. True to his drag queen habit, Albin takes off his wig as the song ends. Mayhem ensues but everything works out as it should. Love and family values win the day. Filled with madcap mayhem, this hilarious farce is that, and a romance – a heartwarming love story with a special modern family. We care about all members of this family.
Jerry Herman’s score is one of the finest every penned for the stage. Harvey Fierstein has created a loveable character in Albin that Gene Weygandt delivers with heart, gusto and warmth making La Cage aux Folles a tremendous night of musical theatre. The wonderful dance show-stoppers choreographed by Melssa Zarenba (making her Marriott Theatre choreographing debut) are dazzling and David Hess nailed his songs with his rich voice. The humor is infectious. Every young person should see this show to experience one of the last of the old-time Broadway styles musical comedies. Jerry Herman’s acceptance speech at the Tony Awards mentioned that La Cage is a tribute to musicals with hum-able melodies that foster “take-home songs” (those you sing to your self on the way home). Come see this show for indeed it demonstrates that “The Best of Time is now, is now.”
Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 4, 2015
For more info checkout the La Cage Aux Folles page at theatreinchicago.com
At Marriott Theatre 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL, call 847-634-0200, www.marriotttheatre.com, tickets $50 – $55, Wednesdays at 1 & 8 pm, Thursdays 7 Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4:30 * 8 pm, Sundays at1 & 5 pm, running time is2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission,through March 22, 2015