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La Cage Aux Folles is the fifth opening and the second musical offered at the 2024 Stratford Festival. It is a wonderful choice and a thoroughly enjoyable production. La Cage opened on Broadway in 1983 and was revolutionary in its treatment of homosexual relations. It became a hit and now is simply a funny script with beautiful songs and outstanding dances.
The plot is simple and rather flimsy. Georges (Sean Arbuckle) and Albin (Steve Ross) are a gay couple living above and running La Cage aux Folles, a nightclub in St. Tropez. Georges is the manager and Albin is a star transvestite performer known as Zaza. They have been together for a long time and raised Jean-Michel, Georges’ son and the result of a one-night stand following excessive drinking. Albin has raised Jean-Michel as if he were his son.
All is well until Jean-Michel (James Daly) announces to his parents that he is in love with the lovely Anne (Heather Kosik) and wants to marry her. In fact, her parents are coming to meet his family.
This presents logistical, moral, social and political problems that can only be considered as insurmountable. To wit: Anne’s father Edouard Dindon (Juan Chioran) is the leader of the "Tradition, Family and Morality Party" a political wing that is not in favour of gay nightclubs, to put it politely. Her mother Marie Dindon is no better. How do you handle a sticky situation like this? Lie, yes, lie, fabricate, cover up and …lie. Change the furniture in the apartment and include a prominent cross above the door. Send Albin away. Pretend Georges is a retired diplomat and has nothing to do with the evil nightclub below. And hope that Jean-Michel’s birth mother does not come.
Almost everything will go wrong with farcical and hilarious consequences. Albin refuses to disappear and another subterfuge is agreed on: make Albin act like a he-man, let’s say like John Wayne. Imitate the slouch, the walk and look of the Duke. The reactions of the Dindons and the lunatic behavior of the “maid” Jacob (a stupendous Chris Vergara) are all hilarious.
When Jean-Michel’s biological mother does not show up, Albin, the master cross dresser and his real mother appears as his mother. It is a hilarious scene but the crucial point is that Albin raised Jean-Michel with the love and care of a real mother. When Albin throws off the wig that he is wearing representing the biological mother all hell breaks loose.
The plot provides all the comedy and I will not reveal any national secrets if I tell you that handsome Jean-Michel and pretty Anne will marry and be happy, and the parents are reconciled to their bliss.
The thin plot is good enough for the comedy and the singing and dancing are perhaps more important than the other aspects of the musical. Like the plot the music and songs are vintage Broadway, lively, fast paced, lyrical, comic, wonderful. The outstanding song and the one that may have catapulted the show into huge success is “I am what I am” sung by the fearless, exuberant and perhaps larger than life Zaza. It is a hymn, perhaps an anthem for gays who need not apologize or explain who they are.
The Chorus known as Les Cagelles is introduced individually and they are persons rather than just a chorus line. And they are outstanding. Gorgeous, colorful costumes, spectacular dance numbers and comedy, they are a delight to the ear and the eye. Kudos to Choreographer Cameron Carver and Costume Designer David Boechier.
The sets by Brandon Kleiman represent the stage of the La Cage aux Folles nightclub, a restaurant and the apartment of Georges and Albin, all rich, colorful and beautiful.
Director Thom Allison puts all the parts together and provides an outstanding night at the theatre.
La Cage aux Folles, with book by Harvey Fierstein, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, based on the play by Jean Poiret opened on May 31 and will run in repertory until October 26, 2024, at the Avon Theatre, Stratford, Ontario.

June 20, 2024
Cultural - Κριτική Καλών Τεχνών

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