La Cage aux Folles – the latest production at San Francisco Playhouse – is a blast! Winner of six Tony Awards – including Best Musical – it’s fun and colorful, has some wonderful numbers, exuberant dance routines, plenty of humor – and just enough poignant moments to give us pause for thought, and indulge in a bit of introspection.
Skillfully directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Bill English, La Cage is still a winner – over its 34-year lifetime, the razmatazz, glitter and stardust haven’t dimmed a scrap – and there’s good reason for why. With a book by four-time Tony Award-winning playwright Harvey Fierstein – adapted from the play by Jean Poiret – and music and lyrics by multi-Tony Award-winning composer Jerry Herman, La Cage shows musical comedy at its hilarious and high-kicking best.
The show has seen three highly successful revivals over the years – winning two further Tony Awards for Best Revival – in 2004 and 2010 on Broadway – and the 2008 West End production took the Laurence Olivier Award in the same category. With a pedigree like that, this production could have been perceived as a somewhat daunting undertaking, but not a bit of it. The Playhouse professionals, as ever, take it in their highly professional stride, going for broke with a well polished and hugely enjoyable show.
Ryan Drummond is suave, genial and endlessly patient as Georges, the emcee of the St Tropez drag club which gives the musical its name. He has the unenviable task of managing the rather fragile psyche of his long-term partner, Albin – who is also Zaza, the star turn of the cabaret. John Treacy Egan swings from temperamental diva to winsome and wounded lover without skipping a beat, but he’s at his finest when Zaza hits the stage and belts out her showstoppers.
Nikita Burshteyn is earnest, yet persuasive, as Jean-Michel, Georges’ son from a long-distant fling. He, however, presents his father with a real dilemma – he’s fallen in love with the daughter of a politician with extremely conservative views. He’s desperate not to be let down by his rather unorthodox family, and Georges, in turn, also wants to do the best for his son. Cue hilarious consequences!
In the supporting roles, Bryan Yates Sharber has some marvelous moments as the coquettish Jacob, Albin’s butler-cum-housemaid, Samantha Rose is appealing as Anne, the love of Jean-Michel’s life, and Adrienne Herro and Christopher Reber deliver a set of fine comedy cameos in their dual roles as Mme and M Renaud, and as Anne’s parents – Marie and Edouard Dindon. Lee Anne Payne sparkles as restaurant hostess Jacqueline, and the troupe of hoofers are absolutely outrageous in their respective, if occasionally dubious, characters.
Head for the Playhouse, throw caution to the winds, and prepare to thoroughly enjoy yourself. This bizarre mix of comedy, glitz and thought-provoking sentiments is too good to miss.
La Cage aux Folles runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until September 16. For more information and reservations, visit www.sfplayhouse.org.
Photography by Jessica Palopoli
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