Last night I went to see La Cage Aux Folles with my Mum and Dad at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. Perhaps not the most conventional way to celebrate your 12 year Valentine’s anniversary with your husband, but I think I made up for it with a nice day out. I’ll write a post all about our Valentine’s adventure shortly
La Cage Aux Folles is a musical comedy about Georges, owner of the nightclub “La Cage Aux Folles” and his partner, Albin, a drag artiste who performs as the nightclub’s star attraction, Zsa Zsa. When Georges’ son, Jean-Michele announces his engagement to a girl from a conservative family, he asks his parents to try and appear normal for one day. As you can probably imagine, chaos and hilarity ensue as the audience are left to question what is a “normal” family and what does it mean to be a “mother”.
I was unfamiliar with the musical numbers before I saw the show, (apart from I am What I Am – obviously!) but that certainly didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all. There were so many catchy, uplifting tunes as well as beautiful ballads. I particularly enjoyed La Cage Aux Folles, The Best of Times and Look Over There. No doubt I’ll be downloading a soundtrack soon.
Adrian Zmed was wonderful as Georges, the owner of La Cage Aux Folles. He brilliantly portrayed the struggle to keep both Albin and Jean-Michele happy, and the affection between himself and Albin was instantly clear. He had a powerful singing voice and I loved the emotion that was evident in his rendition of Look Over There. It was one of my favourite moments in the show.
If, like me, you’ve grown up with musical theatre, then you will be familiar with the name Marti Webb. She’s somewhat of an icon in the musical theatre world. Looking at her Wikipedia page there really isn’t much she hasn’t done, although she is possibly best known for her work in Evita and Tell Me On A Sunday. In La Cage Aux Folles, Webb plays Jacqueline, friend to Georges and Albin and owner of a local restaurant, Chez Jacqueline. It’s not a huge part in the show, but she does have a few breakout moments and Webb played them with ease. I can now add her to the list of West End royalty I’ve been lucky enough to see live.
Georges’ son, Jean Michele was played here by Dougie Carter. He gave a lovely, smooth performance of a young man love. His song “With Anne On My Arm” was romantic and beautifully sung. Jean Michele has to appear both spoiled and sincere which Carter handled brilliantly. The moment were he realised how badly he’d treated Albin and tried to make amends was truly touching.
Alexandra Robinson played Anne, Jean Michele’s fiancee. She’s not given a terrific amount to do in the show, but she’s still an important character. I loved watching her stand her ground against her parent’s discrimination and Robinson did a great job of making Anne seem sweet, but also strong.
Paul F Monaghan and Su Douglas played Dindon and Marie, Anne’s conservative parents, as well as other supporting roles throughout the production. The characters of both parents was pitched perfectly and provided some great comic moments. It was particularly satisfying to see Marie finally stand up to her domineering husband, which drew a big cheer from the audience.
Two other supporting characters who just have to be mentioned were Jon De Ville as Francis, the long suffering stage manager and Samson Ajewole as Jacob, the butler who insists of being called the maid. Both actors were fabulously funny and firm favourites of the audience. Ajewole in particular had us in hysterics virtually every time he opened his mouth
Les Cagelles, the dance troupe at La Cage Aux Folles, were simply fabulous! They were graceful and elegant, performing some fabulous dance routines featuring seriously high kicks and tricks! They were easily one of the best dance troupes I’ve seen in a long time.
I loved the decision to have the performers appear in the finale in male clothes, stripped of their makeup and costumes. It felt raw and real and was a great way to show how brilliantly these actors have created an illusion over the past couple of hours.
Finally, we come to John Partridge as Albin and his alter ego Zsa Zsa. I have very deliberately left this until last. I could probably write a whole blog post solely on Partridge’s performance. I mean absolutely no offence to the rest of the cast, who were all brilliant, but this was definitely Partridge’s show. Obviously it wouldn’t have worked without solid supporting characters, but if Albin doesn’t appear to be the star then the whole show would fall a bit flat.
John Partridge gave a beautiful, subtle performance. He showed an amazing range between broad comedy and intense drama. He knew how to command a stage and captivate an audience. When he broke the 4th wall and performed Zsa Zsa’s act direct at us, interacting with the audience, I was mesmerised. I could have watched that show all night.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Partridge twice before in Nottingham, once in pants and once in Chicago as Billy Flynn, so I was already expecting great things. It still didn’t prepare me for the strength of this performance as Albin – F**king hell, that man can sing! All I could think as he performed some of the big show-stopping numbers was that Shirley Bassey needed to watch her back. His rendition of the iconic song “I am what I am” was breath-taking . He didn’t just belt it as you might expect, but started quiet and contained before building to a powerful finish. It was just perfect.
As you may have gathered, I’ve fallen slightly in love. At the end of the show, virtually the whole theatre was on their feet in a standing ovation. I can’t remember seeing a more deserving performance.
Occasionally when you go to the theatre, you’re lucky enough to see the definitive performance. You know you’ve seen something special, something to be remembered. I was fortunate enough to see Idina Menzel play Elphaba in Wicked and in my mind, she IS Elphaba. That’s how I’ll always think of La Cage Aux Folles. I was there when John Partridge played Alblin and he will now always be my “Albin”. It just doesn’t get better than this.
I didn’t really have any great expectations of La Cage Aux Folles. I was pretty sure I’d enjoy it, but had no idea how much I’d be moved by it. This is a show which celebrates diversity and acceptance. I am a married, white, heterosexual woman, so I’m pretty much the least diverse person I know! Yet, even I was felt uplifted by the message behind the show, that we should embrace our individuality and accept other people exactly as they are.
I know that I always recommend you go and buy tickets to my shows (well, almost always) but this time I mean it! There are no words that can do this justice – you just have to see it for yourself. There’s glitz and glamour, humour and drama as well as touching on some important issues, particular in our modern society which is growing increasingly anti-liberal.
La Cage Aux Folles is showing at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until 18th February 2017, so if you’re quick you may still be able to get into see it. It then continues its tour of the UK for the remainder of 2017. You can find full details of the tour destinations and dates on their official website.
Have you seen La Cage Aux Folles or do you have tickets booked? Let me know in the comments below.