Reviewed by Cate Norris
‘La Cage Aux Folles’ brings a little bit of ‘Moulin Rouge’ to Birmingham, in this sassy, vibrant, explosion of glitz and glamour. No expense has been spared on the highly stimulating set and costume, which boast more colour than a Dulux sample chart and feathers that would strike envy in a peacock.
Gay couple, Georges (Adrian Zmed) and Albin (John Partridge) run La Cage Aux Folles, a nightclub with a difference. As indicated in the opening number ‘We Are What We Are’ and the line ‘you’ll find it tough guessing our gender’ the club is a drag club. Albin performs at the club as Zaza and is a celebrity in their home of St Tropez. During the club scenes, the audience are treated to some mesmerising choreography, the atmosphere was electric and Brummies were bobbing up and down in their seats and clapping along with glee.
It was the story that was unfolding behind closed doors however, that was of most interest. Georges and Albin live together above the club with their maid (Samson Ajewole). A visit from Georges’ son, Jean-Michele (Dougie Carter), from a previous heterosexual relationship, informs of his plan to marry the love of his life Anne (Alexandra Robinson). The only problem is that Anne’s father Dindon (Paul F Monaghan) is a politician, and is completely against homosexuals and drag artists. Furthermore, he plans to shut La Cage Aux Folles down. Both families are due to meet before the wedding, but Jean- Michele requests that Albin moves out temporarily, and his real mother attends so they can assume the role of a ‘normal’ family.
La Cage Aux Folles has been summed up by previous director, Robert Sherringham, with the word love and I definitely agree with that. The show oozed love and this is what stood out for me. Firstly, the song ‘A Little More Mascara’, highlighted the importance of feeling good about yourself and learning to love what you see physically. The relationship between Georges and Albin was beautiful and tender, and was embodied by their son Jean-Michael, and his beautiful acknowledgement for all that Albin had done for him as a mother, in the song ‘Look Over There’. The show stopper, and ultimate audience favourite, had to be John Partridge’s rendition of ‘I Am What I Am’. With this being the exemplification of self-acceptance and ultimately love of yourself, Partridge belted it out with a genuine and emotional performance that sent the audience wild.
My personal favourite scene, was at the beginning of act two where Albin was being taught how to play the part of a man, so that he could attend the meeting of the families as ‘Uncle George’. This was hugely entertaining and Partridge nailed the contrast between camp and macho with expert comic timing.
This show was very, very long (approx. 2 hours 30 minutes with 1 interval) and I was beginning to get a little restless. I have to say it was just a little too camp for me and I would have liked there to have been more focus on the storyline. This did make me wonder who the target audience would be, but looking around there was a real mix. In addition, the show finished to a standing ovation and a very shocked and grateful looking Mr Partridge. It is certainly a fun and entertaining, feast for the eyes. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
Tickets cost from £17 (booking fees may apply).
La Cage Aux Folles is at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 16-20 May 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com or call the box office on 0844 338 5000.
Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4TB | 0844 338 5000