Review - La Cage Aux Folles (UK Tour)

Set in a drag nightclub on the French Riviera, La Cage Aux Folles focuses on the chaos which ensues when drag artist Albin and his husband Georges prepare to meet their son Jean-Michel’s fiancĂ©e, and her ultra-conservative parents.
Adrian Zmed and John Partridge in La Cage Aux Folles
Photo credit - Pamela Raith
The story of La Cage Aux Folles is entertaining if somewhat predictable. Harvey Fierstein’s book contains a lot of clever wit, undercut by a touching truthfulness which gives the humorous musical a bit of bite. It must be said however that this production of La Cage Aux Folles does feel a little bit too light-hearted at times. The script features several moments of danger and tension but due to the sauntering pace of some scenes several characters act more apathetic than their words suggests at times.

Sporting a broad affected Northern accent John Partridge gives his all as glamorous drag artist Albin, aka Zaza. Despite some slightly awkward audience interaction scenes he commands the stage well and steals the show on multiple occasions. Most notably, his rendition of iconic anthem I Am What I Am, which brings the curtain down on act 1, is a powerful moment both vocally and emotionally, with Partridge showcasing a strong singing voice complete with killer vibrato, which is well suited to Jerry Herman's songs. Alas, as Albin's husband and La Cage Aux Folles's master of ceremonies Georges, American veteran stage and screen actor Adrian Zmed lacks a certain flair and showmanship, and seems a little lost amongst the larger than life personalities he shares the stage with. However, Albin’s fellow entertainers Les Cagelles impress immensely, splitting and high-kicking with boundless energy, each bringing tons of personality to their role. Bill Deamer's choreography really captures the playfulness of the drag numbers, making them a joy to watch throughout. 

In fact, the scenes which take place upon the stage of La Cage Aux Folles itself are definite high points in the show. Set and costume designer Gerry McCann has created a gorgeous, glittering paradise for Albin and company to inhabit. The rich reds and golds which punctuate the production make it seem particularly luxe, while the array of feathers, sequins and baubles make each drag number a real feast for the eyes. 

At its heart, La Cage Aux Folles is about love and acceptance, two universal themes which seem especially relevant given the rocky and somewhat divided nature of the country right now. It's interesting, and in some ways rather sad, to find a musical which deals carefully with a number of social and political issues which ring true today as much as they did when the show first opened on Broadway in 1983. Despite this production’s flaws, it has glitz, pizazz and will leave its audience with their toes tapping.

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