La Cage aux Folles at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
(Original farce by Jean Poiret; musical by Jerry Herman with script by Harvey Fierstein, 1982)
Directed by Martin Connor
The curtain at the New Victoria rises to reveal another proscenium stage, the gilt and crimson plush of the Cage aux Folles in gay Paris. And here come the dancing girls in all their ostrich feathers and satin glory, with legs to die for and energy and style that sets the mood of the evening. There’s a story, too, that blossoms in the second act into a moral parable for the times (one question is: just what makes a mother?). And in telling it, there’s high, raucous camp comedy, farce, and joyous celebration of love, life and diversity.
It’s a simple story: Georges and Albin are partners in life and in the Cage aux Folles, a successful Parisian drag club. Jean-Michel, Georges’ son by a previous heterosexual relationship, arrives home to announce that he wants to marry Anne, who turns out to be the daughter of an influential and prudish local bigwig who would like to close the club. Their ensuing machinations to try to solve the problem are hilarious.
John Partridge as Albin is certainly the star of the show, as well as of La Cage: beautiful, lithe (he originally trained as a ballet-dancer), with a singing voice of incredible range and purity, a talent for comedy and a way of working the audience that had everyone joining in and laughing with him. Partridge is a great partner to Adrian Zmed as Georges, in their scenes of pathos and tenderness as well as high comedy. A memorably camp comic performance by Samson Ajewole makes the character of Jacob both ridiculous and lovable: he got a special cheer from the audience on each appearance in the second act!
The high-kicking chorus, all at least six feet tall in their six-inch heels, are extraordinary: the costumes by Gary McCann are lush and the dance sequences are a treat for the eyes.
La Cage aux Folles was something of a landmark in the history of gay rights when it first appeared as a film in 1978 and as a musical in 1982. It’s full of double entendres but also of emotional and societal dichotomies, making the case for love of all kinds and between all genders, against prejudice and selfish unfeeling. The theme songs I loved best sum up the show’s message: Now is the Time, and I am What I Am.
Don’t miss it! It will cheer up your whole week!
The show is on at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, all this week until Saturday 10th June Book tickets here: http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-victoria-theatre/