We’ve been waiting a long time to see La Cage aux Folles – this is the first major production London has seen since the 2008 West End revival – and we had to wait even longer than anticipated, as last week’s press night was sadly rained off after about 45 minutes. Thankfully we were able to make a return visit to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre earlier this week to review the show and it fully lived up to expectations – this production is a truly wonderful piece of queer theatre.
For those unfamiliar, this iconic 1983 musical – book by Harvey Fierstein, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and based on Jean Poirot’s play – broke new ground by being the first Broadway show to focus on the lives of a gay couple, and gave the community queer anthem I Am What I Am. It subsequently swept the Tony Awards, picking up Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, and has become a seminal work in the queer canon. Set in St Tropez, it tells the story of Georges (Billy Carter) and Albin (Carl Mullaney), who live above – and run – the La Cage aux Folles club.
It’s amazing how many of the play’s key themes still resonate today. Whether we’re considering queer characters who feel the need to hide parts of themselves in order to conform to society’s expectations (and how painful and difficult that decision may be for them), or we’re seeing ultra-conservative politicians stoking culture wars and scapegoating minorities, this show delivers a remarkably powerful social commentary. That it manages to achieve this with so much heart, warmth and queer joy is a remarkable feat; it has a serious message at its core but this is still a hugely-entertaining show from beginning to end.
This is a largely LGBTQ+ cast and creative team, and seeing so much queer excellence on-stage is a joy to behold. There are numerous stand out moments but we feel we need to draw attention to Carl Mullaney as Albin, who plays the club’s star attraction, a drag queen by the name of Zaza. Not only does Carl keep us entertained throughout, but the show-stopping rendition of I Am What I Am, delivered with an expert blend of strength and vulnerability, earned a mid-show standing ovation on the night that we caught it. The song and dance routines delivered by the chorus line of Cagelles in the club are varied and hugely enjoyable too.
If it wasn’t abundantly clear, we adored this revival of La Cage aux Folles. Everything looks and sounds great – the band, the singing, the costuming, the choreography, and the impressive performances, all unfolding against the magical backdrop of Regent’s Park, makes for a wonderful theatrical experience. The run has just been extended due to demand – do yourself a favour and pick up a ticket.
GAY TIMES gives La Cage aux Folles – 5/5
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