Audience members at the Sunday matinee of Davis Musical Theater Company’s production of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s “La Cage aux Folles” had a pleasant surprise in store for them. Since both Friday night’s opening performance and Saturday night’s performance had to be canceled due to the power outage, Sunday afternoon was the actual opening “night” and thus we were treated to the traditional opening night reception, complete with cake and apple cider.
It was a particularly pleasant surprise for the children in the audience.
One might think “La Cage aux Folles” is an odd show to which to take a child. It takes place in a female impersonators’ club on the Riviera and its principal characters are gay, sometimes outrageously so.
But at its heart, “La Cage aux Folles” is a love story. The love of two parents for each other and the love they have for their child, which leads them to make great personal sacrifices for that child; and the love of a young man for a young woman and their desire to get married, despite their disparate backgrounds.
Albin is one of my favorite musical theater characters. He is the headliner, “Zaza” at the nightclub La Cage aux Folles and has been the partner of Georges for 20 years. In Albin we see the pride in who he is and what he is and his hurt when he feels betrayed by his husband and their son, yet his ability to work through that with both imagination and dignity when he sees that their son is in trouble. An actor playing Albin has to be outrageously flamboyant when the role demands it, yet bring great heart to his relationship with Georges and he must make the audience feel his pain as he sings his signature song, “I Am What I Am.” Ryan Adame is such an actor. He nailed the song and his interactions with Georges brought tears to my eyes every time. It was a lovely portrayal.
Newcomer Martin Lehman is Georges, owner and emcee at the nightclub and trying to walk the fine line between his love for his partner of 20 years and his desire to help his son impress his would-be in laws. Lehman gives a solid performance that was always adequate and occasionally better than average. I don’t know who made the make-up decisions for Lehman (I was told that there was no make-up designer for the show), but someone should have helped him to look older than he did. He looked more like son Jean-Michel’s (Clocky McDowell) buddy than his father.
McDowell is a talented actor who had no trouble convincing the audience that he was head over heels in love with his Anne (Kris Farhood). Their “Anne on my Arm” is a lovely dance number. But losing the dark-rimmed glasses, and a bit of make-up magic would make him look less like a middle aged accountant.
Nic Candito is Jacob the outlandish butler/maid and delivers a funny performance whenever he appears on stage.
Anne’s parents are Edouard Dindon (Michael Manley) , the head of the Riviera’s equivalent of the Traditional Values Coalition, and his wife Marie (Monica Parisi). Parisi was the better of the two, while Manley’s acting left some things to be desired. However, he’s lovely in drag.
Mary Young is Jacqueline, friend of Albin and owner of the classy Chez Jacqueline; Marc Valdez and Jan Isaacson play Msr. And Mme. Renaud, owners of a café where Georges attempts to give Albin lessons in how to act like a real man to fool the prospective in-laws.
The production is directed and choreographed by Ron Cisneros. Some of the dance numbers were wonderful (particularly “The Best of Times” and the tap dancing in “We are what we are”) The pace of the show is slow, however, in great measure due to the length of time to change scenery. Some scenes had more life to them than others. And some, like the hors d’oeuvre scene between the two sets of parents, didn’t seem to make much sense (I believe in the original production it’s a dinner scene, which is much more logical.)
It is also rare that I find much to complain about in Jean Henderson’s costume design and she did have some gorgeous gowns for Albin, but the opening number by the Cagelles, in which they talk about their glitter and glitz was done in flowing multi-colored costumes that looked like badly fitting pajamas. I question whether a self-respecting drag queen would wear them to bed, much less to perform what is supposed to be a glitzy dance number. The later costumes with suitable feathers and glitter were much more appropriate.
I love this show and I think DMTC does a reasonably good job with it. As always a show that is designed to be a Broadway show-stopper is hampered by a lack of funding and a small cast. But given what they had available, there were enough good reasons to see the show – and if the weather will cooperate, there won’t be any power outages preventing that from happening!