Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

La Cage aux Folles
Barrington Stage Company
Review by Fred Sokol

Also see Fred's recent review of Funny Girl

Alex Michaels
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Barrington Stage is currently presenting a handsome production of La Cage aux Folles that is very much a treat for the eyes. Rodrigo Muñoz and Benjamin Weigel provide snappy costumes wile Alexander Woodward's set for the club in Saint-Tropez, France, is two tiered and engaging. Jerry Herman wrote music and lyrics and Harvey Fierstein the book for this musical, which first appeared in 1983/84. At that time, this was an absolutely breakthrough-type show.

Based on Jean Poiret's play also entitled La Cage aux Folles, the musical tells the story of a relationship between gay partners Georges (Tom Story) and Albin (Alex Michaels), oftentimes called ZaZa. They reside on the second level above the nightclub. Georges facilitates the performances while ZaZa is very much his star and leads the actors-in-drag revue.

Just as Albin readies to sing "A Little More Mascara," Jean-Michel (Noah Wolfe) arrives on the scene. Jean-Michel is Georges' 24-year-old son who grew up with Georges and Albin. Sybil, the young man's mother, is totally out of the picture. Now, though, Jean-Michel is home to inform the middle-aged spouses that he will marry Anne Dindon (Sally Shaw), and Wolfe gives a sweet rendition of "With Anne on My Arm." The second act reveals that Anne's father, Edouard (Don Noble), is a conservative sort who is in opposition to drag clubs. Midway through the first hour, Georges and Albin combine nicely on "With You on My Arm." The quite lengthy beginning portion of the production is resplendent as the club performers strut, gyrate and impress. Michaels' Albin or drag queen par excellence ZaZa, who consistently captures one's attention, ushers in intermission with a great vocal of "I Am What I Am."

The initial plot centers around goings-on at the club and the interplay between suave Georges and intriguing, multi-faceted Albin who have been together for two decades. Director Mike Donahue and choreographer Paul McGill pace the action swiftly with some sparkling dance sequences. Bobbie Zlotnik supplies wigs which become a key ingredient. Philip S. Rosenberg's lighting proactively brings theatregoers to the locale with, for example, early strobe effects. Versatile music director Angela Steiner (with numerous credits as an orchestrator and keyboard player) leads a fine group of instrumentalists who are active contributors. Before one line of dialogue is spoken, Steiner rises from the orchestra pit and introduces the proceedings by playing a white and red glittering accordion. This is a nuanced moment that contrasts with the overall nature of the next nearly three hours of theatre.

Georges and Albin are quite credible and, as a couple, they are convincing. So, too, Jean-Michel is clearly in love with Anne. Director Donahue coaxes his actors to find comic interplay which is maximized through back-and-forth. Deep into the second act, Albin and Georges have a quick exchange which remains fresh and witty as Georges notes he is "one plain homosexual."

Dazzling and sometimes shiny, Barrington Stage's La Cage aux Folles scores through production elements and creative, disciplined delivery of many actors who are well-rehearsed and highly capable. It does not feel dated nor is it highly moving. One certainly feels transported to a singular place while admiring and appreciating the presentation. The focus and material remain important forty plus years after the musical's debut.

BSC's rendering is excellent yet not irresistible. Give it high marks across the board, yes. This show is not memorable as was Cabaret on the very same Boyd-Quinson Stage one year ago. Barrington's La Cage is definitely high level stuff, very much marked by actor energy and imaginative design. Mike Donahue has all of the essentials in place; still, it is not an undeniably enthralling stunner.

La Cage aux Folles runs through July 6, 2024, at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield, MA. For tickets and information, please call 413-236-8888 or visit