Georges and Albin are together again in the Manatee Players' La Cage.
By Kay Kipling
Two productions of Jerry Herman’s St. Tropez-and-transvestites musical La Cage aux Folles in one local season? Ooh-la-la, mes amis.
The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre provided a strong production of the show earlier this season; now it’s the Manatee Players’ turn to revel in the feathers and froth of this tale of two longtime homosexual lovers, their on-the-verge-of-marriage son, and the havoc a visit from the potential in-laws brings. There are highs and lows in the production, generally well staged by Larry Alexander, but it had to have been challenging to find enough “cagelles” (suitable male actors willing to dress in drag and do high kicks) to fill out the La Cage chorus line.
Alexander is fortunate to have two strong singers with long performing backgrounds behind them to play Georges (the relatively straight one) and Albin (the more effeminate of the pair, whose onstage personality of Madame Zaza comes fully tricked out with sequins, wig and, of course, heels). Ken Basque (Georges) and Rodd Dyer (Albin) work well together and with that son, Jean-Michel (David Scarpaci), whose engagement to the lovely Anne (Corinne Woodland), daughter of an anti-homosexual politician (Randy Garmer) causes all the trouble.
There are some issues with Dyer’s performance, although they are by no means fatal. Sometimes his more feminine voice, so often employing a nervous laugh, is just too querulous; it wears on you after a time. And even for Zaza, he is probably wearing too much eye makeup; you can see it from the back row, and you may wonder how he’s managing to keep his eyes open at all.
But he’s affecting in his big Act I closer, I Am What I Am, after the full extent of his son’s betrayal hits home, and gets the full measure of laughs when trying to adapt his movements and style for public consumption in Masculinity. No such worries for Albin’s butler/maid, Jacob (Brian James Dennis), who obviously feels free to be as over-the-top flaming as he/she wants to be. Dennis plays the role as directed and, again, gets a lot of laughs, even if it wore thin by the end for me.
Given a diverse cast, physically, of “cagelles,” choreographer Dewayne Barrett makes some of their dance numbers more broadly comic in nature—an understandable choice. Fred Werling’s costumes certainly follow the cue to be outrageous, too. And the set, designed by Marc Lalosh, helps transport us to St. Tropez, especially the moonlit waterfront backdrop.
It was interesting to reflect, on opening night, how the mostly older opening night crowd took Georges and Albin to their bosoms—it seems doubtful that they all necessarily grew up so comfortable with homosexuality, even when presented in a Broadway musical comedy. I guess we’ve come a long way over the past few decades, even if there’s still further to go.
La Cage aux Folles continues through May 31 at the Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre; call 748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com for tickets.