The star of the nightclub La Cage Aux Folles is the inimitable Zaza, who epitomises the glorious, glamorous decadence of St Tropez in the late 20th century. The reality is somewhat different however, and Zaza/Albin and his partner George are forced to straighten their act when George’s son wants to get married.
Jerry Herman’s musical take on the French play by Jean Poiret contains all the right ingredients for a classic Broadway hit and at the time took quite a risk with its subject matter. The humour of Harvey Fierstein’s book is still fresh and all that remains is to add the Menier Theatre’s golden touch to create a successful, pertinent revival.
Sadly, this time around, the golden touch has escaped it with a production that is saved only by one or two performances and Lynne Page’s lively and engaging choreography.
Designer David Farley, normally inventive and economic, runs riot with plush velvet drapes and pink festoons that ill suit the venue’s already intimate nature and some of the most important scenes are lost to appalling sightlines.
Philip Quast as George dominates the tiny stage and furnishes his role with at least some sense of fun. Neil McDermott as the spoiled Jean-Michel is easy on the eye and ear while it is Jason Pennycooke who hits all the right comic notes as the cheeky maid, Jacob. Douglas Hodge as Albin is just about acceptable as a middle aged gay man dealing with rejection and humiliation. Hodge is not, however, a star drag queen on the cabaret circuit and appears awkward whenever he is on stage as such.
Terry Johnson’s direction, and indeed the whole production might be better suited to a much bigger stage where distance lends enchantment to the illusion but the chances of La Cage transferring seem very slim.