The lashes are curled, and the boys are tucked in this spunky new production of La Cage Aux Folles currently playing at The Concourse, Chatswood. La Cage, written by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman, won six Tony awards when it opened in 1983 and a further five for its subsequent revivals.
Based on the 1973 French play, it tells a story of an older gay couple Georges, the owner of a cabaret club (La Cage Aux Folles) and Albin, his partner in life and love who performs as Zaza, the star at the San Tropez nightclub. Their son Jean-Michel brings home his new fiancée and expects Georges and Albin to meet his ultra-conservative parents-in-law-to-be. Hilarity unfolds when Alban decides to play Jean-Michel’s absent mother. It all seems to go well until Albin begins to perform at the family dinner. Will love prevail? You’ll have to come and find out.
It has been too long since Australia last had a professional production of La Cage Aux Folles. As always, the Australian creatives have taken an international story and brought a little Australian to it. Riley Spadaro, a fresh Sydney director, uses every square inch of the stage, giving the impression of a much larger venue. Pair that with the steadfast musical direction of Craig Renshaw, and this production packs a much bigger punch than what’s expected from a slim cabaret orchestra and small cast.
Does it scream San Tropez… no, but shows have moved well beyond having to spoon-feed every little detail to the audience, and La Cage is a prime example of this. The costumes and sets are simple but effective and allow the audience to imagine what each of the musical’s locations might be like. This means the cast can fill the space with characterisation and performance, which they do in spades.
I recently read Harvey Fierstein’s autobiography, I was Better Last Night, in which he talks about Albin being one of his favourite characters to play. This larger-than-life character allowed him to explore the whole gamut of human identity. This exploration has clearly inspired Paul Capsis’ performance. He uses the full range of motion and melodrama to bring Albin into his camp existence. Albin’s histrionics is perfectly balanced by Georges’ even-tempered stability, played by Michael Cormick. No stranger to the stage, Cormick draws on his illustrious career to deliver heartfelt anguish while firing off sassy retorts and hilarious punchlines simultaneously.
I think any production that features drag queens must be taxing on the performers. Drag queens are renowned for being larger-than-life caricatures of the women that inspire them. This show is particularly tricky as there are no minor characters, and each brings a massive personality to the performance. While the whole cast gave their all, they were no match for Lucia Mastrantone’s Jacqueline, whose hilarious performance of her internal dialogue prompted mid-performance rapturous applause.
Opening night finished with a standing ovation, so come down to The Concourse and be transported to gay ole San Tropez.
– The other Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig is a regular on the Sydney Arts scene after living, working, and performing in London. He has a long history with theatre, and when not dabbling in the arts (which rarely ever happens), he works in scientific research and loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig
La Cage Aux Folles runs for 2 hours 30 minutes (with a 20 min interval) and plays at The Concourse through 5 February 2023. Tickets are available through Ticketek.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Ferris Davies PRM.
Image credit: John MacRae.