★★★ | La Cage Aux Folles
You’ve probably heard of or seen this musical in some form or other. You might know it as the 90’s Robin Williams/Nathan Lane comedy film The Birdcage, the original French farce and subsequent film version from the 70s or the often revived 80’s Broadway musical.
It’s a queer little story in more ways than one. Drag queen Albin and his long-term lover Georges run a nightclub in St Tropez. Georges’ son (from a drunken one night stand) who they’ve raised together wants to bring home his fiancée and her ultra-conservative parents. There’s one condition, though. Albin must be hidden away for fear of embarrassing their son with his high camp ways.
Famously launching the gay anthem ‘I Am What I Am” onto the world, this is a musical that emerged during a storm of reawakened prejudice amidst the AIDS crisis yet managed to lure thousands of people into seeing a heartwarming and fun show about gay men in a committed relationship. It revved up an astonishing reaction in an army of straight men dragged along by their wives and girlfriends who then ended up dancing in the aisles and cheering on a flamboyant and camp main character as he fought against prejudice. Quite a feat.
This touring production is a bit of a paradox. It feels undercooked and underwhelming in parts and there’s a distinct lack of comic timing from swathes of the cast. In spite of this, it’s also incredibly good fun. Yes, it’s like a night at ‘Funny Girls” in Blackpool. Yes, it’s more Danny La Rue in pantomime than RuPaul. Yes, the drag queens would certainly get a dressing down from Michelle Visage for sloppy padding but it’s got an infectious charm nonetheless.
John Partridge (best known for his role as Christian Clarke in Eastenders) as Albin shows his musical theatre pedigree and belts out a tune with panache. He’s also not a bad ad-libber (although be warned, public transport users. The show overruns due to this). The sets are stylish but wobbly. The costumes are glitzy and although the plot is absurd it’s tolerable. Forget production values and all that stuff though. All in all, it’s a fun night and the audience at The New Wimbledon Theatre were ecstatic.
‘La Cage aux Folles” is on a national tour throughout 2017, book tickets here