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Review: La Cage aux Folles

New Wimbledon Theatre and touring
14th March 2017
Review by Ralph McEachern

Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox

Producer: Bill Kenwright

Director: Martin Connor

Choreographer: Bill Deamer

Designer: Gary McCann

Lighting: Ben Cracknell

Sound: Dan Samson

Musical Director: Mark Crossland

Music and Lyrics: Jerry Herman

Book: Harvey Fierstein

Cast: John Partridge, Adrian Zmed, Dougie Carter, Samson Ajewole, Su Douglas, Marti Webb, Alexandra Robinson, Paul F Monaghan, Jon De Ville, Luke Byrne, Jane Quinn, Rachel Cumino, Jordan Livesey, Liam Paul Jennings, Louie-George Daniels, Matthew Ives, Micah Holmes, Richard Leavey

The first UK tour outing of this 1983 classic certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to flamboyant spectacle, camp comedy and quintessential Broadway song and dance routines. Set around the world of a French drag night club, owned by Georges (Adrian Zmed) with his leading lady and lover Albin (John Partridge), the plot revolves around the betrothal of Georges’ son Jean-Michele (Dougie Carter) to the daughter of an ultra right wing politician, and the farce that ensues around the first meeting of the parents.

It feels both thoroughly modern and at the same time classical. Barring one odd choice of costume for Anne, which seemed to be straight off the set of Flashdance, the setting was timeless. I am pleased a decision was taken to cast “accent-blind”. A smorgasbord of natural dialects were used, just like in any real life cosmopolitan setting. It didn’t sound odd and avoided the need for any dodgy French imitations, other than those added for deliberate comic effect.

The unmistakable star of the show is John Partridge who has nailed the Drag persona with natural ease. He appears both beautiful and grotesque in equal measure, with all the personality and energy of a true West End leading lady. He excels in comic moments, and really knows how to riff with an audience. Particular highlights were frequent mentions of the show Sunny Afternoon, which the New Wimbledon Theatre are promoting aggressively at the moment.

Adrian Zmed plays a very likeable Georges, with lovely rich singing tones, although he doesn’t quite match Partridge’s energy until the second act. Marti Webb, as the small but imperative character Jacqueline, was as excellent as you would expect of the veteran musical theatre star and a slight shame that she was so rarely on stage. Dougie Carter is utterly charming as the young lover Jean-Michele and his lyrical tenor voice is a beauty to behold.

The first act suffered from pacing problems, but this may be the piece itself rather than this production. Cabaret numbers aside, the songs seemed to slow the story down, rather than add to it. The drag ensemble, as Les Cagelles, perform Bill Deamer’s choreography wonderfully, although at times one wished for a little more precision. A feathery Fosse inspired number and lively tap number reminds one why Deamer is one of the most in demand choreographers today.

A drag show relies heavily on thrilling costumes and Gary McCann’s designs do not disappoint. The set is also lavish and plentiful compared to what I have come to expect from a similar scale of touring show in recent years.

La Cage aux Folles continues at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 18th March and tours thereafter.

Dates and tickets below…

14 - 18 Mar Wimbledon Theatre

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21 - 25 Mar Leeds Grand Theatre

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9 - 13 May Dartford Orchard Theatre

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16 - 20 May Birmingham Hippodrome

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23 - 27 May Bristol Hippodrome

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30 May - 3 June Grand Opera House York

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6 - 10 Jun New Victoria Theatre, Woking

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13 - 17 Jun Salford Lowry

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27 Jun - 1 Jul Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

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4 - 8 Jul Liverpool Empire Theatre

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18 - 22 Jul Bradford Alhambra Theatre

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25 - 29 Jul Glasgow King's Theatre

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1 - 5 Aug Sunderland Empire

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8 - 12 Aug Milton Keynes Theatre

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15 - 26 Aug Brighton Theatre Royal

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