“It’s rather gaudy, but it’s also rather grand,” is how one character describes the mythical club of La Cage Aux Folles, the same applies to the touring production at the State. From the moment I walked into the theater room of the State Theatre, I was greeted by bright pink curtains surrounded by a false frame decorated with wooden trees. The show is grandiose and gaudy, and although this is La Cage’s biggest strength, it becomes it’s greatest weakness as well.
The strength of the show is definitely this gaudiness, centered around La Cage, but because the production spends so much time trying to convey a weak plot with dry humor as opposed to at the club, it leads to wishing the Cagelles would come back on, and focus on them. The funniest jokes were all told during the preshow. Jokes like, “Helen Keller would know you’re gay!” and “Harsh spotlight. Don’t you have anything in pink?” is something I’d expect hear from Family Guy. Once the show starts the memorable jokes become few and far between, while the plot shifts away from the gaudy glory of La Cage Aux Folles, a transgender night club featuring the dramatic and splashy Les Cagelles, and onto the romances of 2 couples. After La Cage Aux Folles fades to the background, Georges (George Hamilton) and Albin’s (Christopher Sieber) relationship is the only thing moderately interesting, being that they’re a homosexual couple, while Albin dabbled in and out of drag.
The plot focuses on their relationship, as well as that of their son Jean Michel and his girlfriend Anne. The main conflict arises from Jean trying to hide his gay parents and liberal background from Anne’s father, the founder of “Traditional Family and Morality Party.” Although this sounds interesting on paper, on stage it’s not as good. The conflict sadly hits its peak late into the second act, and Albin is very obnoxious, but not very funny. Jean Michel and Ann are only accessory characters, and their plot feels tacked on, while even more characters have only a couple lines to say, none of which are particularly stunning. While Georges and Albin have plenty of stage time, Jean has one scene to fill us all in about his backstory, and it feels very forced. Seeing Georges trying to awkwardly introduce Jean Michel’s wishes to Albin is interesting, but not compelling. The actors do a good job in their roles however, even when their characters and dialogue are weak.
The other settings also pale in comparison to the night club. Although much of the story is set in La Cage Aux Folles, other locations, such an apartment and cafe, just can’t compare, especially with lighting that only served to illuminate the stage. A big change to the apartment in Act II grants some comic relief, but the gray backdrop gets stale quickly. La Cage Aux Folles and Les Cagelles once again come to save the day here, with much better use of lighting and shadows in their dance sequences.
Luckily the choreography and score help make up for the plot and set design. When Les Cagelles take the stage, nothing can stop them. The energy and enthusiasm they bring to the stage is one of the best parts of the show, and despite not having deep backstories, their personalities dramatically burst out in their choreography. The music is also well done, in a way I can appreciate. As opposed to having 20 songs I won’t remember, they have a few main themes that get recycled, and are much more memorable, especially with the cabaret like feel, strong vocalists, and excellent lead trumpet. I can’t say I’ll be singing “The Best of Times” the same way I do “Jet Song” from West Side Story, but having a few memorable songs is much better than affording too much time to a weak soundtrack.
If you’re looking for a feel good show centering on drag queen drama and excellent choreography, La Cage will quench your thirst. But when it comes to storytelling, the dry humor and laborious plot will leave you parched.