La Cage Aux Folles @ New Wimbledon Theatre (and touring)
Cast Includes John Partridge, Adrian Zmed and Marti Webb
Running Time: 2 hours 40 mins, inc. interval
La Cage Aux Folles has become something of a classic in modern musical theatre, an it’s impact on the genre cannot be understated. A mainstream show that focusses on the lives of two gay men who live together, and the embracing of this was something radical in the 1980s when the show premiered, and whilst this show is no longer quite as unique and radical as it was back then, there is a lot to still enjoy.
One of the major things to mention is the sheer theatricality and beauty of the show. Whilst many touring productions have a restricted wardrobe, this show has multiple costumes for each character – they are complex and intricately designed, and there is a vast quantity of sequins, glitz and feathers used which makes the show a stunning spectacle.
The choreography of the show is also top notch – some of the best parts of the show uses the Cagelles, the dancers of La Cage, and they form a tight unit that works very well. Though a West End production would possibly use more dancers, this works to the shows advantage – the audience feels closer to them, and this works well.
One of the most important parts of a musical is the score. Jerry Herman has created some classic in this show – I Am What I Am has become a classic, not just in musical theatre but also on a larger context. Some of the other numbers are good, such as A Little More Mascara and The Best of Times, however one of the issues with the score is that it is reprised too often, with some songs appearing three times in very similar forms which can cause the show to drag. The second act in particular only has four ‘new’ songs that are new to the viewer, which feels a little sparse.
Another issue with the show is the cabaret La Cage aux Folles number that occurs towards the end of the first act. This section really slows down the pacing of the piece, feeling drawn out and slightly superfluous. Whilst possibly novel at the time, in an era of Rupaul’s Drag Race it seems dated, and whilst Partridge gives it a good shot, it feels very scripted, rather than feeling natural.
The main cast are good, particularly John Partridge and Adrian Zmed as Albin and Georges. They both tackle the leads well and have a good chemistry together. Both carry the main songs well, though in the show-stopping number I Am What I Am, Partridge did not belt parts of the number, making it more emotive which was effective though it could possibly have been even bigger, as the main number of the night.
Summary: A camp classic, though the script could be refined and tightened. A good company create a feel-good night ***