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A CurtainUp DC Review
La Cage Aux Folle
For La Cage, the audience is seated in a half moon around the stage on either side of which are the dressing rooms of the nightclub. As the audience takes their seats, performers — long-legged men in drag — are doing warm up exercises, adjusting their wigs, adding yet another layer of mascara, and making sure that the false boobs they have around their waists are hoisted into a more appropriate position.
Then comes a French-sounding overture, emcee Georges (Brent Barrett) welcomes everyone and the show is on. The mellifluous tenor who has made a successful career in Broadway musicals is very much at home with Jerry Herman's music and lyrics. He's so comfortable he's almost too laid back.
Albin, Georges's partner in life as well as at the nightclub where he is known as Zsa Zsa, is prone to hissy fits, umbrage and moments of pure pathos. If casting is a huge portion of getting it right, then this production hit the jackpot with Bobby Smith as Albin. He is in good voice, moves well, and does some hilarious business, particularly when channeling Marlene Dietrich.
The player who steals every scene he is in, DJ Petrosino as Jacob, servant to Georges and Albin, executes some very old physical gags with much aplomb and delivers his lines which happen to be some of the show's best jokes with a very pronounthed lithp. He is hilarious.
Farce is ruined when the shtick goes too far but Director/Choreographer Matthew Gardiner keeps his cast in check — except for letting Albin's physical contortions at the top of the second act go on too long. The plot, script and dance move rapidly in the first act; less so in the second.
Harvey Fierstein, Broadway's quintessential musical queen, wrote the book which is filled with quick wit and wicked quips. My apologies to those who sat within ear shot of my very loud laughter.
The script, indeed the whole show, seems as though it has been freshened up, made contemporary. Much has changed in the LGBT community since Jean Poiret wrote in 1973 the play on which La Cage is based. And a lot has not. The horrific event in Orlando had not yet taken place the night I saw La Cage. So when Albin sang Herman's delightfully upbeat "The Best of Times," it felt very real. Smith's subdued rendition of "I Am What I Am," is, soulful, beautiful and a particularly poignant anthem to acceptance and love.
Les Cagelles, decked out in body suits, wigs, crowning head gear, feathers, you-name-it, the high-kicking and vamping dancers/singers, every one of whom is excellent, are syncopated to perfection. Their make-up (under Andre Hopfer's guidance) is exaggerated, even by drag standards, particularly eye-lashes that look like huge fuzzy black caterpillars. Highly appropriate given Albin's song "A Little More Mascara."
Frank Labovitz's lavish, over-the-top costumes show no restraint and the same can be said for Lee Savage's scenery. Suspended above the stage, an 8-piece orchestra led by Darius Smith does justice to Jerry Herman's music and all the performers deliver his lyrics admirably.
Message to prudes: stay home. Everyone else, go ahead, enjoy yourselves. La Cage aux Folles at Signature is a hoot.