Thursday 10 August 2023

La Cage Aux Folles - Review

Open Air Theatre, London


Music & lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Based on the play by Jean Poiret
Directed by Timothy Sheader

Carl Mullaney

In a beautifully created revival, Jerry Herman’s La Cage Aux Folles played under a (thankfully) balmy summer’s evening at Regents Park.

Billy Carter plays Georges and Carl Mullaney, Albin, in the famed story of family, identity, sexuality and love. Harvey Fierstein’s book is given an intelligent treatment by Timothy Sheader in his swansong at the Open Air Theatre. The comedy is immaculately timed and the moments of powerful pathos, sensitively handled. As the evening’s twilight darkens across the stage, Colin Richmonds’ evocative set is brought into a gorgeous relief by Howard Hudson’s lighting plots. Equally, Ryan Dawson Laight’s costumery of both the dancers at the La Cage Aux Folles nightspot, and the surrounding characters is delightful.

The strengths of this show however lie in its outstanding performances. Carter and Mullaney are magnificent in their middle-aged, decades long romance, with the act one treats of Carter’s Song On The Sand and Mullaney’s I Am What I Am proving sensational. Both men imbue their numbers with sensitivity, in the case of Mullaney’s first-half closer, a perfectly weighted power too. As the (albeit implausible) plot plays out, there is an outstanding turn from Debbie Kurup as restaurateur Jacqueline.

Aside from the show’s magnificent vocal work, Stephen Mear again turns in a marvellously choreographed dance creation. The imaginative moves, perfectly drilled, are a joy to behold. Craig Armstrong was called upon on press night to cover the role of Edward Dindon and did so with finesse. Ben van Tienen conducts Herman’s score with verve, his 9-piece upstage band offering a musical treat to accompany the evening.

There is much to enjoy in La Cage Aux Folles, one of London’s most enchanting nights of musical theatre.

Runs until 23rd September
Photo credit: Mark Senior

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