Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Richard's reviews of Seussical and Wesla Whitfield and Mike Greensill: Havin' Any Fun?
La Cage aux Follies means "the cage of mad women." This is an apt description for the wild characters in director Bill English's production, which has more heart than other productions I have seen. Some claim that the 1983 show is passé in the age of civil partnerships, but homophobia is far from dead and the musical is as much comedy as campaign statement.
Jerry Herman's score is beautiful and hummable, including influential, inspiring songs such as "I Am What I Am," "Look Over There," and the title song. When the whole cast sings "The Best of Times" at the end, it is unequivocally fantastic. This production has tremendous, spirited choreography by Kimberly Richards. The high point remains a can-can danced by Les Cagelles, in which six males and females (Morgan Dayley, Lee Ann Payne, Alex Hsu, Brian Conway, John Paul Gonzales, and Nicholas Yenson) do high kicks, cartwheels, and even the splits in a display of energy unrivalled anywhere.
The musical is based on the 1970 French film. It's about two middle-aged gay men: Georges (Ryan Drummond) and oh so effeminate Albin (John Treacy Egan), who run a drag nightclub in St. Tropez. Albin is the drag star of the show where he goes by name Zaza. Georges has a straight son named Jean-Michel (Nikita Burshteyn) whom he and Albin raised. Georges has a problem when his son announces his impending marriage to Anne (Samantha Rose), the daughter of a bigoted politician who hates homosexuals.
Georges and Albin are to host Anne's parents, the narrow-minded Edouard Dindon (Christopher Reber) and his wife Marie (Adrienne Herro), for one night. The second act is something of a French farce, as Albin appears in drag as Georges' wife, which brings about hilariously funny results.
John Treacy Egan is charismatic as Albin and Zaza. He is exuberant when singing with his powerful voice "I Am What I Am" (this time he is not at a dressing table applying makeup but out in front of the audience in the La Cage nightclub). Ryan Drummond is outstanding as Georges. The two have wonderful chemistry, unquestionable. Georges' "Song on the Sand" and "Look Over There" are stunningly sung.
Nikita Burshteyn as Jean-Michel with his golden vocal cords sings "With Anne on My Arm" with pitch perfect resonance. Returning to the stage after a six-year hiatus, Brian Yates Sharber gives a brilliant, campy portrayal of Jacob the maid. Samantha Rose gives an appealing performance as Anne, and Christopher Reber as racist Edouard Dindon and Adrienne Herro as his wife Marie are wonderful in these smaller roles. Robert Faltisco, who plays Francis, is excellent in the minor role.
Jacquelyn Scott has designed an awesome set on a turntable featuring a living room and the nightclub, and Abra Berman has designed fabulous costumes for Les Cagelles. The seven-piece orchestra under the music direction of Dave Dobrusky delivers great back-up for the singers.
Bottom line: This production ranks right up with the other professional productions I have seen.
La Cage aux Follies runs through September 16, 2017, at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street, Second Floor of The Kensington Park Hotel. For tickets call 415-677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org. Coming up next in their Sandbox Series is the world premiere of Kirsten Greenidge's Zenith at ACT'S Costume Shop, Market Street, San Francisco, running August 16 through September 10.