You get two bites at the cherry with the Creagh/Carr Review – the opinions of seasoned hackette Bev Creagh and flamboyant newshound Stewart Carr. Here’s what they thought of La Cage Aux Folles, at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, August 12.
CREAGH SAYS ... It’s an eye-catching extravaganza of colourful costumes, saucy cabaret-style dance routines, camp humour and magnificent melodies.
La Cage Aux Folles is a St Tropez drag nightclub, run by gay couple Albin and Georges, and the plot concerns the carry on when George’s son Jean-Michele – allegedly conceived during a one-night stand – wants his father and ‘maman’ to meet his bride-to-be and her puritanical parents.
It’s part tragedy, part comedy, and offers a variety of morals on a variety of levels.
It’s certainly stood the test of time. Originally written in the 1970s by playwright Jean Poiret and subsequently made into an Academy Award nominated movie by Edouard Molinaro, it’s a relevant today as it was probably shocking back then.
It’s funny, poignant, contemporary, loud and absolutely OTT.
The first half drags somewhat and the sound is muffled – a shame as the clever lyrics of some of the show-stopping songs, including the gay anthem I Am What I am – were almost indecipherable.
But the second half is much faster and slicker.
John Partridge – best known as Christian Clarke in EastEnders – is fabulous as Albin. He has a strong voice, impeccable timing and plays the sometimes hysterical and always entertaining drag queen with both panache and pathos. He had the audience roaring with laughter when he compared himself to Strictly’s Tess Daly as he made a grand entrance down a star-studded staircase.
Adrian Zmed as the more worldy-wise Georges is also a joy but both are eclipsed whenever Jacob (Samson Ajewole) is on stage. Not only does he tower above everyone but his interpretation of the simpering butler/maid, who harbours desires to be a drag queen himself, is absolutely hilarious.
Marti Webb as Jacqueline is in strong voice and good form and the chorus is awesome. They may initially appear a little muscular of shoulder but until they whip off their wigs and step out of their tutus, you’d never guess they were an all-male ensemble.
The theatre was packed and the first night audience didn’t want them to let them go – clapping, cheering and whistling long after the final curtain came down.
A must see – if you can get tickets!
CARR SAYS ... Think of bright lights, bombastic feathers, baffling ladyboys and you’re there! Plain old words simply don’t do when it comes to a show so deliciously camp as La Cage Aux Folles.
A thoroughly distracting two hours of non-stop entertainment is what’s on the cards, with boundless energy and showmanship.
But for all its bravado, La Cage still manages to tug the heartstrings with a few moments of real poignancy.
More so than the original film, the musical takes a defiant stance on what it means to stay true to your identity.
The genderfluid Albin (played with wonderful aplomb by John Partridge) juggles being a husband to partner George (Adrian Zmed), step ‘mother’ to George’s son Jean-Michele, and most importantly, resident drag diva ‘Zaza’ at La Cage Aux Folles.
Shenanigans ensue with the announcement of Jean-Michele’s engagement to the daughter of a prominent conservative politician. But any pressures to conform are thoroughly blasted into the abyss with the show’s triumphant signature tune, ‘I Am What I Am’.
Loud, proud, and reinforcing, La Cage Aux Folles plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until August 12. See here for tickets.