La Cage aux Folles
Also see Fred's review of Design for Living
Perhaps because these numbers have been, by necessity, scaled down, the emphasis is much more on the leading characters of Albin and Georges. Portraying a male couple whose son is about to marry the daughter of a bigoted politician, David Edwards, as Albin, and James Van Treuren, as Georges, are superb, both singly and as a couple. Combined with a faultless cast, a sumptuous setting (kudos to scenic designer Cully Long and lighting designer Doug Harry), and a terrific onstage band playing Jerry Herman's glorious score, this La Cage aux Folles is capable of both dazzling the eye and melting the heart.
Directed with a sure hand by the skilled Lawrence Thelen, the show is extremely well-paced and smoothly staged throughout, from onstage numbers to domestic scenes in Albin and Georges' home. Of course, this wouldn't matter much without two fine actors in the central roles. In the less flashy role of Georges, James Van Treuren displays a gorgeous voice (especially in the beautiful number, "Song on the Sand") and his acting is lovely, particularly in Georges' moments with his son Jean-Michel (played by Zach Trimmer, who possesses a strong voice of his own). Georges also presides over the scenes as proprietor of the nightclub "La Cage aux Folles" and he serves as the perfect foil for Albin.
Which brings us to David Edwards as Albin, one of the choicest male roles in modern musical comedy. Looking a great deal like Terence Stamp in the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (this is meant as high praise), he warms up with a stirring "A Little More Mascara" as he prepares to go onstage as his drag persona, Zaza, before reaching the act one finale number, "I Am What I Am." Considered by some to be the "Rose's Turn" (from Gypsy) for a male character, David Edwards' rendition is all you could ask for, both hard-won and heartbreaking. But the real key to this actor's portrayal is the warmth that his Albin displays for both Georges and Jean-Michel.
This production of La Cage is also happily blessed with a superlative cast, right down to the smallest role. La Cagelles are uniformly grand (credit costume designer Njaye Olds and wig designer Elizabeth Cipollina), and Allyson Webb, MarTina Vidmar, and Samantha Lane Talmadge all get their moments to shine in supporting parts. Mention must be made especially, though, for Phil Young, as Albin's "maid" Jacob: rarely have I seen an actor in a relatively tiny role make so much out of his every moment on stage. Winning a great deal of laughter and applause, this actor manages to steal just about every scene he is in.
That the central family unit of Georges, Albin and Jean-Michel maintains central focus is a tribute to both the supple direction of Lawrence Thelen and the touching performances of these three actors. While La Cage aux Folles will always be known for its sequins and feather boas, in Ivoryton Playhouse's production, it is the warmth of familiar ties and real heart that takes centerstage. To quote one of Jerry Herman's songs, Ivoryton Playhouse's highly recommended La Cage aux Folles proves that, truly, "The Best of Times is Now."
La Cage aux Folles continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut through August 31st, 2014. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call (860) 767-7318.