La Cage aux Folles
By Peter May
It’s strangely stirring to hear, amid so much misery, uncertainty, doom and gloom, a song that proclaims: “The best of times is now./So hold this moment fast,/And live and love/As hard as you know how.”
Bill Kenwrights’s terrific Olivier-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles stops by London on its very first UK tour, since its West End run back in 2009. La Cage aux Folles is now recognised as one of the world’s finest modern musicals, beginning its life as a French stage farce, written by playwright Jean Poiret.
Set in glitzy San Tropez, the play tells the story of a gay couple, Albin and George who make their living running a drag nightclub. George has a son from a different marriage who ends up falling in love and plans to get married. Sadly the parents of the daughter in law to be are extremely conservative and puritanical and are not biggest fans of the gay community. It doesn’t help matters that the daughter in laws father is also a right wing politician who has plans of closing down the drag clubs in the French Riviera. Drama ensues when a meeting of the parents forces them to cover up their flamboyant lifestyle. The results are heart-breaking, deeply emotional, but also absolutely hilarious.
Despite being a huge Broadway smash, La Cage is perhaps slightly less well known on these shores but probably most remembered for when Graham Norton donned the sequins and feather boa in the last run here. La Cage was also adapted for the big screen in 1996 hit starring Robin Williams and Harvey Fierstein in ‘The Birdcage’. This time however, Eastenders star John Partridge steps into the corset to play Albin and his drag star alias Zaza. This role clearly has Partridges name all over it and he plays the character fantastically. Getting the balance right between sexy and humourous as well, as nailing the more sensitive and heartfelt scenes.
Fans of 80’s TV show TJ Hooker will remember Adrian Zmed who stars here alongside Partridge playing his husband George. He makes his UK stage debut in this production but is no stranger to the spotlight for he has appeared in many Broadway hits such as Grease and Blood Brothers. West End favourite Marti Webb also has a juicy role here playing fancy restaurant owner Jacqueline.
There has been no skimping on sets and costumes on this tour either, usually on a touring show these things are usually downsized, it seems to be the opposite in this case. An elaborate red curtain and starry stage front facade fills the stage throughout makes you feel like you are sitting within a cabaret club.
The show has some serious but relevant undertones of acceptance, but its songs will leave you skipping out of the theatre, ready to accept that ‘we are what we are’.
La Cage aux Folles plays at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London until 18th March, before continuing on its nationwide tour until August 2017.