Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


La Cage aux Folles
Bay Area Musicals
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Grand Concourse, City of Angels, and Hello, Dolly! in concert and Eddie's review of The Real Americans


Michael RJ Campbell
and Clay David

Photo by Ben Krantz
Bay Area Musicals is currently presenting the fun musical La Cage aux Folles by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein. In 1983, it was the first mainstream gay musical and a blending of a love story between two men with great show tunes like "We Are What We Are," "Look Over There" and "The Best of Times," and drag queens in outrageous costumes. I saw the original production with Gene Barry and George Hearn in 1983 followed up by the touring production that played in Los Angeles with Dennis Quilley and Gary Beach.

The time is 1977 and the place San Tropez, France. Georges (Clay David) is the owner of a nightclub and living with his lover, oh so effeminate Albin (Michael RJ Campbell) who stars in the club in drag as Zaza. Georges, through a relationship with a woman, has a straight son named Jean-Michel (Jack O'Reilly) whom he and Albin raised. Jean-Michel is about to be married to Anne (Bessie Zolno). The problem is that Anne is the daughter of Edouard Dindon (Cameron Weston), the head of a prominent conservative group who hates homosexuals. In the second act it becomes something of a French farce at a dinner party hosted by Georges and Albin for Edouard Dindon and his wife Marie (Marie Gibboney) along with Jean Michel and Anne.

Jerry Herman's score includes powerful, uplifting songs such as "I Am What I Am" and "La Cage aux Folles," and beautiful romantic songs like "Song on the Sand" and "Look Over There." This production features terrific, energetic choreography by director Matthew McCoy danced by Les Cagelles, a sextet of drag queens dancing their asses off. They do a wonderful can-can number with high kicks, cartwheels, and even splits. They include Patrick Brewer and Michael Saenz as dance captains and Christopher Juan, Malakani Severson, Lavale Davis, and RJ San Jose.

Matthew McCoy has assembled a marvelous cast for this bubbly musical. Michael RJ Campbell is outstanding as Albin. He firmly creates his transition from Albin to Zaza with the insightful "A Little More Mascara" and stops the show with his exciting vocal cords when he belts out "I Am What I Am." Clay David gives a fabulous performance as Georges. He plays it a little campier than Gene Barry or Dennis Quilley. However, he has strong dynamic vocal chops where singing "We Are What We Are," "Song on the Sand," and "Look Over There." He rocks singing "The Best of Times" and the reprise of the title song. Both find charity and self-esteem in their characters rather than playing them as cartoons.

Jack O'Reilly plays Jean-Michel like the boy next door. He has pitch perfect resonance when singing the "With Anne on My Arm" and he charmingly sings the poignant reprise of "Look Over There." Cameron Weston gives an impressive performance as Edouard Dindon; Bessie Zolno gives a charming performance as Anne; and Mary Gibboney is excellent as Marie Dindon. Joseph Alvarado camps it up as Jacob the servant of Georges and Alvin.

The seven-piece orchestra under the music direction of Jon Gallo provides nice back-up for the singers.

The Victoria Theatre is known for acoustical problems and on the night I attended the lively production, there were times when the actors' voices seemed to be bouncing off the walls in this old theatre. However, when the leads were singing, the lyrics came over loud and clear. Next season Bay Area Musicals will move to the Alcazar with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opening on November 5th.

La Cage Aux Follies runs through July 31, 2016, at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St just off Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. For tickets call the box office 415-340-2207 or visit www.bamsf.org.


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