Last night I joined a group of friends for a coach trip into London to see the hit stage show “La Cage Aux Folles” at the Playhouse Theatre. The Playhouse is one of the smaller theatres and it was packed, so there was an excellent atmosphere. For those that have not seen the stage show before it is essentially the same plot as the film “The Birdcage” but with some key differences. The film was based in the US and was very much a comedy, whereas the stage show is based in France and has some deeper subtexts.
The basic story is one of two gay night-club owners whose straight son tells them he is marrying. However, his chosen bride is the daughter of a homophobic French politician and the son wants his father (Georges) to play it straight and remove all connection with the drag club downstairs, as well as Georges’ camp partner Albin to make himself scarce for the night. He further wants Georges to invite back his mother who has shown no interest in him for the last 20+ years. Whereas the film introduces the mother, the stage show does not and unlike with the film some of the action takes place in Jacqueline’s restaurant.
There is the usual cast of burlesque dancers and comedy moments but the stage show portrays the son as far less sympathetic to his father and partner’s dilemma as they attempt to achieve what their son wants.
The cast was fantastic and the lead roles well cast. Philip Quast as Georges has exactly the right mix of masculine campery and Roger Allam as Albin is the perfect foil as the very effeminate drag star of the show. The part of Albin was previously played by Graham Norton.
There are many excellent musical numbers including “The Best of Times” and “I am What I am” supported beautifully by spectacular costumes and minimalist sets. The stage is quite small and therefore there simply is no room for the effusive sets of some productions. However, they would be a distraction from what is an excellent production.
After the show I was fortunate to meet some of the cast and congratulate them on a great performance. If you are looking for an entertaining night out and like this kind of flamboyant show, I can highly recommend “La Cage Aux Folles”.