Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
La Cage aux Folles
With a score by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the musical opened in Boston to an enthusiastic reception and moved to Broadway in 1983, nabbing nine Tony Award nominations and winning six. A 2004 Broadway revival won a Tony for Best Revival, as did the 2010 revival, making La Cage aux Folles the first musical to win a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical twice.
Many in the audience of the production by Landmark Musicals at Rodey Theatre may remember the story from the popular 1996 Mike Nichols film The Birdcage, which starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in the two lead roles.
The story follows the show impresario Georges (Darby Fegan) and his partner Albin (Bill Williams), who is the star of Georges' St. Tropez drag nightclub, La Cage aux Folles. Over their years together, the two men raised a son, the product of an affair Georges had with a woman who is long gone. Life takes a dramatic turn when the son, 24-year-old Jean-Michel (Will Binette), tells his father that he plans to marry Anne (Ariana Grant), whose father Eduard (William Lang) is the leader of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party, an arch-conservative group whose goals include shutting down venues like La Cage aux Folles.
The humorous set-up plays out with a number of twists, turns, and unexpected flips. One of the stronger comedy threads that runs through the story is acted out by Jacob (Hasani Olujimi) Georges and Albin's butler, a fount of over-the-top flaunting. As always, Olujimi is an absolute delight every second he's on the stage. You can't quit watching this guy, even as he runs through one gay cliché after another. Pure beauty.
The story and production require strong performances in the roles of Georges and Albin; Fegan and Williams deliver with exuberant gusto.
Director Zane Barker and producer Myra Cochnar have put together an energetic and charming show, from the drama of the storyline to the performances on the stage. While there isn't a ton of dancing, the choreography by Louis Gianinni (who is also associate producer) and Courtney Gianinni is superb. The music direction by Darby Feganbacked by the La Cage aux Folles orchestra conducted by Daniel Cummingsis wonderful. It all comes together on a high note when act one closes with Williams (as Albin) singing the show's strongest song, "I Am What I Am."
This is yet another high mark for Landmark Musicals. Their last production, Ragtime, was amazing, and for pure charm and rousing entertainment, La Cage aux Folles is a strong match.
La Cage aux Folles, through August 12, 2018, by Landmark Musicals at Rodey Theatre, UNM Fine Arts Complex, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $22, $24, and $26, with a $2 discount for students and seniors. You can buy tickets online at unmtickets.com, or by calling 505-925-5858 or 877-664-8661.