“Give me the hook or the ovation!”
Bienvenue Ladies and Gents to, “La Cage aux Folles,” an exclusive nightclub on the French Riviera, owned and operated by the suave Georges, played by Matt Beyer, and his long-time partner Albin, played by Kirk Morton, the club’s star performer, known as the great ZaZa!
The musical centers around the chaos that ensues when Georges’ 24 year old son Jean-Michel, played by Tyler D. Wilson and the result of Georges’ hot one-night stand with a dancer, returns home to announce his upcoming marriage to Anne, played by Alona Metcalf, the daughter of über-conservative parents. Anne and her family are planning a visit to meet Georges, sending Jean-Michel into a panic as he tries to remake Georges and his condo into a more “suitable and conservative” environment to host his future parents-in-law, in the meantime hoping to keep the eccentric Albin far out of sight.
Directed by Joe Pabst for Richmond Triangle Players, “La Cage,” book by Harvey Fierstein, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and based on the play of the same name by Jean Poiret, is a musical that transcends time. Originally written in 1973, it is fascinating how all the characters and their stories are still very relatable and relevant today. With songs like “I Am What I Am” and “Look Over There,” Herman highlights how important acceptance is in everyone’s lives, especially from our loved ones and family. While not the strongest singer on stage, Morton definitely delivers the most emotional performance as you truly see the genuine hurt on his face when he feels has to change in order for Jean-Michel to be proud of him. Switching out of dresses and elaborate pant suits and into a men’s three piece suit after being coached on all things manly by Georges. Beyer and Morton have a true connection that is absolutely palpable. Beyer is calm and collected the whole way through, delivering his character’s snarky quips and comebacks with perfect timing.
Les Cagelles, played by Brian Baez, Philip Baraoidan, Ian Sterns, Asa Maurer, and Andrew Etheredge, are a hilarious and extremely talented ensemble. Expressive and delightfully over-the-top, it is never dull when Les Cagelles are on stage. With each Cagelles being individually strong and evenly cast, they are everything you would hope to see in a production of “La Cage.” Brian Baez with his gorgeous falsetto vibrato, Philip Baraoidan with the most hilarious facial expressions I’ve ever seen (and some darn good dancing too, I may add), Ian Stearns as Hanna from Hamburg, who has a penchant for bondage. Dan Stackhouse gives a hilarious performance as Hanna’s tortured lover, with a new bone broken or fresh bruise appearing every time he comes on stage. Asa Maurer plays the fresh faced ingénue, Dermah, and lastly there is Andrew Etheredge as Mercedes, who has been performing with ZaZa for a long time and brings the most sass and overall feeling of fabulousness to the group. The Les Cagelles choreography by Nicole Foret Oberleitner, who also plays annoying local restaurant owner Jacqueline, is fun and exciting and makes full use of the small stage and the newly erected runway at RTP.
Rounding out the cast are Mark Persinger and Lisa Kotula who play innkeepers, M. Renaud and Mme. Renaud, as well as M. Dindon and Mme. Dindon, Anne’s uptight parents. Almost caricature-like in their movements and speech they bring a fun sense of goofiness to certain parts of the story. Persinger is great as the tightly wound M. Dindon, never unknitting his brow the entire time he’s on stage. Georges and Albin’s “maid” Jacob is played by the hilarious Durron Marquis Tyre, providing the perfect punctuation to Georges and Albin’s relationship. While Wilson and Metcalf, playing Jean-Michel and Anne, are adorably fresh-faced and individually strong, I did not feel any chemistry between the two making the “star crossed lovers” angle of their story not entirely believable.
There were some technical issues with the set on opening night that were noticeable, but not catastrophic enough to negatively affect the story. Frank Foster’s design is very impressive, albeit possibly better executed with higher quality materials, and easy for the actors to manipulate causing little to no down time between scene changes, featuring just a few panels that would fold out to create Georges and Albin’s condo and fold in to create La Cage’s stage and to set other scenes around St. Tropez. D. Mark Souza’s costumes are fantastic and beautifully constructed as usual, and while I would have liked to see the Les Cagelles costumes be a bit more grand, the stage at RTP is just a bit too small to accommodate giant headdresses and the like.
“La Cage aux Folles” is the finale for Richmond Triangle Player’s 20th anniversary season and it is one good time.
Showing through June 29th.
www.rtriangle.org for information