La Cage Aux Folles.
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman. Book by Harvey Fierstein.
Based on the play La Cage Aux Folles by Jean Poiret.
Directed by Garrick Smith. Supa Productions.
ANU Arts Centre. Until November 22.
"Bigger than Broadway and just as good", director Garrick Smith writes in the program for Supa Productions' extravagant, luxurious and opulent staging of Jerry Herman's and Harvey Fierstein's La Cage Aux Folles. Smith is referring to the outstanding orchestra for La Cage Aux Folles, but his words could just as well apply to every aspect of this phenomenal local premiere production. With what can claim to be the most spectacular musical production you are likely to see in Canberra this year, Supa Productions once again cements its excellent reputation.
La Cage Aux Folles is more than just another musical. Certainly it is directed with all the flair of the Moulin Rouge, choreographed by Jacquelyn Richards with all the panache of the Lido and sumptuously costumed by Suzan Cooper with as much flamboyance as the Folies-Bergere. Add to this Steve and Susie Walsh's elaborate setting and Phil Goodwin's spectacular lighting design and you have a show with a wow factor to thrill every audience.
But La Cage Aux Folles is not just glamorous frocks, sequins, feathers and curls or men in drag pretending to be girls. The musical is set in the nightclub of the same name in St Tropez on the Riviera, and also in the apartment of nightclub manager and Emcee, Georges (Jarrad West), his 20-year long partner, Albin aka Zaza (Ben O'Reilly) and their "maid" Jacob (Fraser Findlay). La Cage Aux Folles is a timely and moving plea for tolerance and the affirmation of real love, whatever its manifestation. Cloaked in the bewitching guise of laughter, song and dance, Herman and Fierstein's musical adaptation of Jean Poiret's play is sparkling entertainment with a serious message.
Georges and Albin's world is tossed upside down when George's straight son Jean-Michel (Alexander Clubb) decides to invite the parents of his fiancée, Anne (Tamina Koehne-Drube) to meet his folks. Ann's father, Edouard Dindon, is the homophobic leader of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party. Len Power plays him with all the righteous pomposity of a bigot. Michelle Klemke is perfectly cast as Didon's submissive wife, Marie. Mayhem ensues in a whirlwind of farcical delusion until restaurant owner Jacqueline (Barbara Denham) saves the day.
In a production so carefully conceived, exquisitely staged and superbly performed, the line between amateur and professional becomes blurred. West and O'Reilly, both professionally trained, are magnificent in the central roles of Georges and Albin. The "Les Cagelles" troupe of drag queens, with a couple of female ring-ins, performs with as much flourish as the stars of Sydney's Les Girls. Even the most minor character lights up the stage in this dazzling production.
Only the rather incongruous use of French accents for some and not for others puzzled momentarily before I was swept along by the sheer exuberance of the performances. Herman's tuneful numbers, accompanied by the expert orchestral leadership of the show's musical director, Rose Shorney, swell with the anthems of gay pride, We Are What We Are and Albin's triumphant I Am What I Am. In a rousing finale that brought the audience to its feet in rapturous applause, the company celebrate Life's profound gift of Love, free of prejudice and true to Nature's rich diversity.
Save yourself the cost of a ticket to Paris and treat yourself to a night at La Cage Aux Folles, the hottest ticket in town.