LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    April 1, 2010
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Review by Tulis McCall
    (19 Apr 2010)

    The now iconic story of George (Kelsey Grammar) and Albin (Douglas Hodge), glitters with more than gold in this tiny production with big lungs. Long long ago there were two gay men who lived together in twisted harmony on the French Riviera. By day, if they were awake, they were a happy couple who raised their son together and kept their relationship neat and respectable. No touching in public please. By night they were the impresario and star at La Cage Aux Folles, a nightclub where the most normal feature were the men who cross-dressed.

    When that pesky little son grows up to be a heterosexual who is engaged to the daughter of a conservative politician, and when a meeting of the parents is requested – George and Albin’s life pretty much goes to Hell in a handbag.

    This production rests squarely on the shoulders of Douglas Hodge. Lucky for us all, he has immense shoulders even without padding. Hodge has found the spark of Albin and no amount of makeup or costume can smother it. This Albin depends on love and limelight in equal measure. Albin is fretful and exhilarating. He is demanding and nurturing. He is opinionated and insecure. He is fierce and frightened. This Albin bursts at the seams just by breathing. When he adds a wig and a dress he nearly takes flight.

    Standing in Albin’s shadow, Kelsey Grammar, in spite of the choice of toupée (why cover up a perfectly good looking head with a sad old thing like that?) brings just the right touch of well-worn elegance and mature romance.

    It takes a gracious actor to fall on his sword as the steady soul in this chaotic relationship. As Albin’s Zaza chews up the scenery, George is left to catch the bits that are spit back out and cobble them into a new incarnation. Although he appears a little stiff as the maestro, as a man in love he is spot on. He adores his partner and will not suffer any fool who doesn’t.

    These are not Las Vegas style show people. These are people who have found a niche in a little corner of the Riviera and staked a claim on a life together. They are each other’s heart’s desire.

    The rest of the cast, with the exception of A. J. Shively (Jean-Michel) who pays more attention to how he is standing than to what he is saying, is just swell. Beginning with the understudies who meet and greet you in the lobby, Les Cagelles pack a tiger in their collective tank. There are only 6 of them, but they explode on the postage stamp of a stage. These are the theatre gypsies that make the world go round. As Jacob the maid Robin de Jesús is wildly out of place with his Bronx accent, but somehow it works. He is a clown from the old school, a direct descendent of the Marx Brothers.

    Terry Johnson zeroed in on this love story like a heat seeking missile and decided that going for the gusto was the best way to travel. As staged by London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, this Cage is small and cramped and physically challenged. There is nothing tentative about this production. The funny bits are slapstick. The sad bits are sentimental. The showstoppers are breathtaking. This La Cage is a combination of broad strokes and fine detail, and it is a wild success.

    Quelle surprise!

    (Tulis McCall)

    "Warm, winning production."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "A heartfelt and fun revival."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "The show entertains."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Grammer is charmless and can’t sing, a problem for which I forgive the producers because the rest of the cast is so good."
    Jeremy Gerard for Bloomberg

    "Ingenious razzmatazz and a heartbreaking humanity."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Very funny and engaging revival."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "It's easy to fall in love with this diminutive charmer of a production."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "Simply wonderful."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter

    "Riotously funny and, yes, emotionally affecting revival."
    Michael Kuchwara for Associated Press

    "It's funny, heartwarming and terrific."
    Steven Suskin for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Bloomberg - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Associated Press - Hollywood Reporter - Variety