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New play poignant and playful

Characters in La Cages Aux Folles make it work

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 06:00 am

WINNING COMEDY – The cast of La Cage aux Folles included Andrew Boyd as Jean-Michel (back), Ron Long as Albin (front left), Morgan Smith as George (front centre) and Rory Turner as Jacob.
WINNING COMEDY – The cast of La Cage aux Folles included Andrew Boyd as Jean-Michel (back), Ron Long as Albin (front left), Morgan Smith as George (front centre) and Rory Turner as Jacob.
MAYA GALBOVA/Supplied photo

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Review

La Cage aux Folles
Two One-Way Tickets to Broadway
Runs June 19 to 22, 25 to 29
La Cité Francophone
8627 – 91 St.
Tickets: $15 to $26 Call 780-420-1757 or online at tixonthesquare.ca

It's a madhouse at La Cages aux Folles as birds of a feather do not always flock together in this warm, winning comedy.

Now playing at La Cité Francophone under the banner of Two One-Way Tickets to Broadway, it's basically about George, the gay owner of a St. Tropez drag nightclub, and Albin, his transvestite lover and star.

The two-hour-plus plot follows the farcical chain of events that occurs after George's son returns home and announces he's marrying a young woman, the daughter of a homophobic politician.

Basically a sitcom in drag, the scenes flip back and forth from a non-traditional home life complete with a lisping maid to the teasing, sexy Cagelles (drag queens) strutting their stuff under the lights.

Although some of the Cagelles' plumage appears to molt, their wigs are slightly lopsided and their bustiers reveal masculine chests, it is an appealing show that is heart-warming, poignant and funny.

In this revival of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein's musical, director Martin Galba has pared down the flamboyance, creating a more intimate, less flashy atmosphere.

Instead of a suave impresario in a dapper tux, Georges (Morgan Smith) dresses in bright beach shirts and has a worn down, resigned look. And even when Albin (Ron Long), a jowly, slightly dumpy chanteuse, sings A Little More Mascara, it is never enough to morph into the vamp he sees in his mind.

But it works, because the characters are so relatable. And yes, it's a corny story, but the characters, the good-hearted ones anyway, have a clear sense of who they are and what they value.

The setup is simple. The rather prudish Jean-Michel (Andrew Boyd) comes home to announce his intention of marrying Anne (Lindsay Davidson). The parents are planning a visit, and since her father is an ultra-right-wing politician, the nervous Jean-Michel requests Albin's absence on the night of the parents' visit.

The pairing of Georges and Albin might be an unbelievably laughable situation. Yet Smith and Long play it straight, pardon the pun. Like any couple that has spent two decades together they bicker and squabble, yet are also gently affectionate with each other.

At times the plot appears to careen out of control with Jean-Michel's impossible demands, the Dindons' intransigence and Jacob, the maid (Rory Turner) angling for a spot in the show.

But in the romantic Song On the Sand, Albin and Georges travel down memory lane. With tenderness and sincerity, they create the beating heart of the show. The rapport between Albin and Georges becomes a stronghold that no man can tear apart.

There are many delightful performances – James Franklin as the provocative whips-and-leather Cagelle, Rory Turner as the saucy maid and Andrew Boyd as the frantic son.

But the real glory falls to Ron Long's Albin, who slides from petulance to pain to anger to genuine joy. A transformative actor, he turns I Am What I Am into a defiant anthem and an emotional climax for everyone in the audience.

There's a certain pleasure in watching people being exactly who they are. And this is one nightclub that may be a little beat up and cramped, but it's a cozy spot to enjoy some good theatre.


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