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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


La Cages aux Folles

La Cage aux Folles
John Scherer and Mark Jacoby
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre presents the La Cage aux Folles starring Mark Jacoby and John Scherer. The musical focuses on same sex couple Georges and Albin, who live in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera. Georges is the manager of a nightclub called "La Cage aux Folles" featuring the very finest in drag entertainment. His star attraction is Zaza, who is also his long-time love and life partner, Albin. Their lives are filled with the busy club, its many customers, and its flamboyant chorus of performers called "Les Cagelles." Conflict begins in their personal lives when Georges' twenty-four-year-old son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée Anne. Georges and Albin, who have raised Jean-Michel as father and mother, are saddened to lose their little boy to marriage, but welcome Anne into their hearts. The problem is Anne's ultra-conservative parents. Her father is a politician running for office using a moral platform solidly against the way of life shared by Georges, Albin and all around them. With the prospective in-laws coming to meet them, they scramble to disguise the colorful lives they have created for ones they hope will be acceptable to Anne's parents. In the end they celebrate with pride, who and what they are as exemplified in the most famous song in the show, "I Am What I Am."

Featuring music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the musical is based on the 1973 French play La Cage aux Folles by Jean Poiret. A French-Italian film of the same name was made in 1978, with subsequent sequel films La Cage aux Folles II in 1980, and La Cage aux Folles 3: 'Elles' se mariant in 1985. An American film adaptation of the play called The Birdcage was made in 1996 starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams. La Cage aux Folles opened on Broadway on August 21, 1983, at the Palace Theatre where it ran for 1,761 performances. The show, starring Gene Barry and George Hearn, won six Tony Awards. It was an old-fashioned production in the best sense, with elaborate costumes, exquisite sets, glamorous chorus members, crowd-pleasing choreography and a lush score. It rightfully remains a great American Broadway classic adored by audiences everywhere.

This production of La Cage Aux Folles at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre features spectacular choreography by Denis Jones. The Cagelles dance sequences are technically highly demanding with acrobatics, full pointe and countless jump splits. The talented cast dances impressively, with only a few minor spacing and synchronization issues in transitional moments on the opening night attended. If one is able to distinguish the real women from the men in drag, it is certainly not from their extension or execution while dancing. Lavish costumes by Jose M. Rivera are covered with feathers and sequins, and wigs by Gerard Kelly complete the illusion of camp and glamour. Set and prop design is visually pleasing and effective throughout the show, though a tall floor lamp got caught in a scene change and fell to the floor on the night attended. A live, ten-piece orchestra produces a surprisingly full sound worthy of this Herman score.

Mark Jacoby is wonderfully warm as Georges, his voice well suited to ballads such as "Song on The Sand" and "Look Over There." John Scherer is quite grand as Zaza, and undeniably gives a powerful performance of "I Am What I Am" in one of the best moments of the show. He is perhaps too masculine in his approach to the role of Albin however, and while sometimes mournful—never really vulnerable. He also sings with a vibrato so rapid and strong that it makes the hair on his mile-high Zaza wig quiver on long held notes, sometimes vibrating its way to being flat. Caesar Samayoa is amusingly campy as the maid/butler Jacob, if a bit sloppy with his accent and comic beats. We sometimes couldn't understand words because of his diction and speed, and he underplays the " ... this for you, Papa" bit. Will Reynolds, who plays Jean-Michel, has an unusually beautiful singing voice, and truly acts his role every moment while in song. His "With Anne on My Arm" is a vocal highlight of the night. Puzzlingly, when he is not singing, his acting is stiff and his dialogue sometimes forced. He is too frequently standing in near profile with his arms glued to his side, and sounds uncomfortable saying some of his lines, like "Papa" when speaking to his father. Barbara McCulloh is elegant and sexy as Jacqueline. Bob Levitt and Anna McNeely as Anne's parents, the Dindons, are wonderfully partnered for maximum comic effect. Levitt is all bluster and blame, while McNeely is all restrained modesty. In the closing scene, Levitt is a walking sight gag.

This is a great production, with a few stylistic kinks to work out. With extraordinary dancing, memorable songs and great humor, this La Cage aux Folles is a wonderfully entertaining evening.

Jerry Herman was the first composer-lyricist in history to have three musicals run more than 1,500 performances on Broadway with Hello, Dolly! (2,844), Mame (1,508) and La Cage aux Folles (1,761). He won Tony Awards for Hello, Dolly!, and La Cage aux Folles and a special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2009 for his body of work. His other musicals include Milk and Honey (1961), Dear World (1969), Mack & Mabel(1974), The Grand Tour (1979), and A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine (1980). His many honors include a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, named after him by his alma mater, the University of Miami, in Miami, Florida.

La Cage aux Folles will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through January 31, 2010. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, FL. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-3332 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.

Cast:
Albin/Zaza: John Scherer*
Georges: Mark Jacoby*
Jacob: Caesar Samayoa*
Jean-Michel: Will Reynolds*
Anne/Bitelle: Kaitlyn Davidson*
Edouard Dindon/M. Renaud: Bob Levitt
Mme. Dindon/Mme. Renaud: Anna McNeely*
Jacqueline: Barbara McCulloh*
Chantal: Paul Louis Lessard*
Derma: Corey Heins*
Hanna: Mark Roland*
Mercedes: Blakely Slaybaugh
Lo Singh: Nathaniel Braga*
Angelique: Courtney Iventosch
Phaedra: Logan Keslar*
Francis: Christopher Messina*

Crew:
Director: Mark Martino***
Music Director: Phil Reno
Choreography: Denis Jones***
Scenic Design: Dan Kuchar**
Lighting Design: Donald Edmund Thomas**
Sound Design: Keith Kohrs
Costume Design: Jose M. Rivera**
Wig Design: Gerard Kelly
Stage Manager: Emily Swiderski*

*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**Designates a member of the United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.
***Designates a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Inc., an independent national labor union.


Photo: Alicia Donelan/Fresh Appeal Photography


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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