Okay, full disclosure. I have a major soft spot for “La Cage.” Ever since I was one of the many who stood and cheered at the end of the 1983 pre-Broadway tryout at Boston’s Colonial Theatre I’ve wanted “La Cage” to succeed wherever it plays.
And it’s not just the crisp score by Jerry Herman or the pungent humor of Harvey Fierstein’s lyrics. It is truly the message of becoming a decent human being and knowing who you are, and why, that’s allowed me to love “La Cage” over the years.
So, it was with some trepidation that I approached Theatre by the Sea the other night. Please don’t give us a mediocre, forced version of this musical, I thought. Ah, but not to worry, as the English say. This “La Cage” is a winner all the way.
From a pumped up orchestra to top to bottom fine performances, all aided by muscular choreography and beaming costumes, director Charles Repole’s version is a show, and a message, not to miss.
Taken from a French play, “La Cage aux Folles,” you’ll remember, is set in San Tropez, that glitzy Mediterranean resort where almost anything goes. There’s Georges, owner of a drag night club where the headliner is Albin, whose stage name is Zaza. They are partners in life and face a major problem when George’s son is to marry the daughter of a highly conservative politician.
From there, the story gets both complex, and simple. In good old musical theater propulsion everyone is forced to come to terms with, their real selves.
Theatre by the Sea has come up with two very fine actor/singers. As Georges, the New York-based Peter Reardon gives us a quietly strong and very likeable club owner. And when he sings the tremulously beautiful ”Song on the Sand” you are reminded, once again, how good old Broadway can be.
On the other hand, Jonathan Hammond as Albin/Zaza starts out by being a histrionically over-the-top gay guy, complete with major lisp and hip-swinging stride. However, the fine performer pulls all that back and turns Albin into both a hero and a sweetheart. When he stomps through “La Gage’s” anthem, “I Am What I Am” he brings back oh so sweet memories of George Hearn, the original Zaza, roaring up the aisle complete in dress, stockings and heels.
All of this is beautifully put together with precision and gusto by director Repole aided much by Michael Lightefeld’s hard-driving choreography and Marcia Zammarelli’s hot costumes.
There’s even a local angle. A couple of Pawtucket’s Gamm Theatre regulars, Casey Seymour Kim and Tom Gleadow, add fun and gusto to the production.
So, it’s a great way to close the summer season around here. “La Cage aux Folles” lives at Theatre by the Sea.
Don’t miss it.
Want to Go?
“La Cage aux Folles” Continues at Theatre by the Sea through September 1st.
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