Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s current production is “La Cage Aux Folles” with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; the musical is based on a play by Jean Poiret
“La Cage” is a beautiful love story played out in the magical French Riviera town of Saint-Tropez.
It is filled with songs (you may have never heard before) and dances and glamour and costumes galore and, as with most love stories, a little heartache.
This is the story of Georges, the MC of a posh St. Tropez drag club, and Albin, his partner of more than 20 years, who is Zaza, the star of the club’s female impersonators. The couple have raised Georges’ son from age 4 when Jean-Michel’s mother walked out on the little family.
Jean-Michel returns home to announce that not only is he engaged to be married to Anne Dindon, but the father and mother, Edouard and Marie, of his intended are ultra conservatives; he happens to be the head of the “Traditional, Family and Morality Party.” The Party’s goal is to close all the local drag clubs with La Cage being at the top of the list.
Jean-Michel, being afraid that if Anne’s father finds he has been raised by a gay “mother,” the marriage will be called off. Therefore, the boy pleads with his father to “hide” his “mom” to ensure his wedding dreams will come true.
After much commiseration, Albin agrees to become Uncle Albert and gives some of the funniest moments in the show while he attempts to be a macho man who turns out to resemble a John Wayne slinking across the stage more like Marlena Dietrich.
When the Paparazzi gets heed of the Dindons being in the upstairs apartment at La Cage, everything hits the fan! The ensuing Keystone Kops-like episode aptly climaxes the show, and all’s well that – well, you know.
Jon Douglas Rake directs and choreographs the show befitting the style it implies. Rake’s direction of Albin’s queenly moves juxtaposed with his manly transition is perfect.
Bruce Haasl gives the play a versatile set complete with proscenium decorations similar to the Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The set becomes the stage of La Cage, to the apartment above, to a sidewalk café, to the streets around the resort.
John Chenault does the perfect light design to match the glamour of the club’s acts.
Jeffrey Stvrtecky is Musical Director as well as orchestra conductor. He wields his baton over Judy Lantz and Don Miller on reeds; Michael Leavens on trumpet; Mick Crosby on trombone; himself and John Kelleher on keyboards; Josh Howle on string bass; and Iris McBride on percussions.
Costumers Margot Webb and Grace Stone have outdone themselves with the help of their able assistants which include Diane Boerger, Caitlin Cowan, Fudge Ellison, Brynn Garrett, Brittany Griffins, Shirley Jones, Shelley Kendall, Nancy Shine and Barbara Nielsen Wright; special costumes are created by Linda Pressey. However, it is difficult to determine which the special costumes might be as all the “ladies” are flamboyantly and beautifully dressed.
As for the cast, three of our female impersonators are fakes! That is, they are females! Melanie Gladstone is Mercedes, Amanda Jackson is Angelique and Kathy Kluska is Clo-Clo; the three lady ladies do nice work as women pretending to be men who are impersonating women – got it? The remaining Cagelles are really men – pretending to be women. They are Carlos Barajas as Odette, Mauro Bozzo as Chantal, Arthur Cuadros as Hanna, Matthew Flores as Phaedra and Bruce Haasl as Bitelle. This glamorous cast of glamour boys and girls hits the mark.
Mary Chloe Lee is Jacqueline, the owner of La Cage aux Folles – which, by the way, means “cage of mad women” but Folles is also a French slang term referring to gay queens. Lee has a good singing voice and handles the role nicely.
Joey Schultz plays Jean-Michel, the son of our heroic pair. When telling his father about his true love, Schultz, unfortunately, sings his big number “Anne On my Arm” directly to the audience, hardly noticing Georges is in the room with him. However, he is believable as the young man in love.
Emily Tuomey is Anne Dindon, the love of his life. Tuomey is good in the ingénue role; she has a pleasing singing voice.
Joe Woodland is her father Edouard and ably doubles as a café owner, M. Renaud. Woodland is perfect as the straight-laced homophobe who has to stoop to deception in order to escape publicity.
Dana Johnson doubles in brass as his wife, Marie, and as Madame Renaud. Johnson is charming as Mme. Renaud when she and Woodland help teach Albin how to be a man in “Masculinity.” Johnson is even more amazing when, as a slightly tipsy Marie, she belts out an awesome note in “Cocktail Counterpoint.”
John Miller is Francis the Stage Manager; he is a real hoot explaining his liaisons with Duadros’ Hanna, the dominatrix of the Cagelles.
Andrew Fry is Georges and does a nice job of the slightly ashamed father who wants to help out his son but doesn’t want to offend his love. He could be more dynamic as the Cage MC and a bit more touchy-feely with Albin.
Jeffrey Bassett is Albin. In a word, he makes a great she! He is even funnier being a he who is a she at heart trying to be a he – if you can follow that. Bassett is a big man who carries his weight well as the drag queen Zaza.
The final cast member is Isaiah Parker who, as Jacob, the couple’s man/woman servant, evokes peals of laughter by simply walking on stage and when he speaks and sings, those peals turn into guffaws!
“La Cage Aux Folles” continues at Tacoma Musical Playhouse at 7116 Sixth Avenue, just east of Jackson, through June 8, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 565-6867 or go online to www.tmp.org.
Tacoma Musical Playhouse opened the cage and let out all the ladies and all the fun; it’s up to you to go see “La Cage Aux Folles” to round up the bevy of beauties and have a blast in one of the most theatrical events ever.