Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Apr 19th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Uncaged and Uninhibited

ae LaCage1Dance, diversity shine in Cabrillo's fizzy ‘La Cage Aux Folles'

In celebration of the end of DOMA, and the repeal of Proposition 8, Cabrillo Stage launches its 2013 summer musical season with a lavish, light-hearted production of “La Cage Aux Folles.” Based on the groundbreaking 1978 French film comedy, one of the earliest depictions in modern pop culture of a sympathetic gay couple in a long-term domestic relationship, the show was first produced in 1983 with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by the legendary Jerry Herman.

The Cabrillo production is directed and choreographed by CS veteran Janie Scott for maximum crowd-pleasing. The story is set in and around a popular drag nightclub in Saint-Tropez in the south of France, so there's plenty of opportunity for big, elaborate dance numbers, which is where this production shines. Some other aspects of the production can be a bit uneven, but as long as the eight-man (plus one anatomically correct female) troupe of chorus "girls," called Les Cagelles, are onstage, the show is great fizzy fun.

On the French Riviera sits the famed nightclub, La Cage Aux Folles. (Literal translation from the French is "cage of madwomen," and a large birdcage figures in one of the show's best numbers.) Its owner/proprietor and emcee is Georges (dapper Curt Denham, who has a great singing voice and an easy, affable onstage presence), whose longtime companion is the club's star attraction, Albin, performing under the stage name, Zaza (Tony Panighetti). Suave Georges and the more flamboyant Albin have been together for 20-plus years, and are well known and loved in their community.

Georges' 24-year-old son from a one-night indiscretion, Jean-Michel (the likable Curtis Reynolds), whom Georges and Albin have raised from infancy, comes home to announce to his parents that he's getting married. Once ae LaCage2Les Cagelles of “La Cage Aux Folles” roll with it on stage. they get over the shock that his intended is a woman, Georges and Albin are eager to welcome her into the family. The only problem is, her father is a right-wing bigot who runs an organization called TFM (Traditional Family and Morality). Afraid of losing the woman he loves, Jean-Michel begs his father to call his long-absent blood mother and pretend to be in a "normal" marriage with her just for one day, so the bride's parents can meet their future in-laws without incident—a ruse that will also exclude the easily hurt Albin.

This plot has its ups and downs, but it doesn't interfere much with the entertaining production numbers onstage at the club, especially in the show's more dynamic first half. The rousing opening, "We Are What We Are," introduces Les Cagelles to fine effect. Alex Alvarez as whip-cracking Hannah from Hamburg, Robert Coverdell's Chantal, and Danny Dwaine Wells II as Mercedes, were among my favorites, but they are all wonderful. (Special kudos are also due to CS stalwart Jarrod Washington in a funny bit as accident-prone stage manager Francis.)

Les Cagelles are also in fine form in their terrific black feathered Maria Crush costumes, prowling around their giant birdcage, then launching into an acrobatic cancan in the first act finale, "La Cage Aux Folles,” which leads into Albin's poignant power ballad, "I Am What I Am." But the energy flags in the second half, which is all about the doomed meet-the-parents plot. Danielle Williams as perky Anne, Jean-Michel's fiancée, Benjamin Holck as her dyspeptic dad and Mindy Pedlar as his oppressed wife all work hard, but their scenes hadn't quite gelled on opening night. (In particular, the multi-part ensemble number "Cocktail Counterpoint" needs a bit more polish.) But the nightclub finale, with Les Cagelles on roller skates, brings the audience to its feet.

ae LaCage3George (Curt Denham, left) and Albin (Tony Panighetti) rely on love to lead to the way.Skip Epperson's stylish sets and Kyle Grant's jazzy lighting are especially effective in the nightclub scenes. And Sammy Lopez makes a fun, campy feast out of the role of houseboy and wannabe showgirl Jacob. But the play's trump card is its portrait of tender affection between an aging couple who have been together for a long time, and this production does not disappoint on that score. Although Panighetti sang a little flat on opening night, he delivers a game and heartfelt performance as Albin, and he is partnered beautifully by the gallant Denham. Their touching relationship is the foundation from which this lively production takes flight. 


“La Cage Aux Folles” plays through Aug. 11 at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theatre, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. For ticket information, call 479-6154 or visit cabrillostage.com.

Photos: Jana Marcus

Comments (1)Add Comment
so so
written by gregolio, July 20, 2013
The film is very story-driven compared to the musical stage version which seems far more dance and wig-driven - not surprising considering Harvey Fierstein wrote the adaptation.
For instance there is far less tension in the main character's relationship in part because they burst out in song together every 10 minutes. Thus the acting has to be tip top and it wasn't. Albin was amazing - his face registering every subtlety but Georges never lost his emcee voice from the first scene and every dialog felt like he was presenting the news.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Smells Like Team Spirit

The organizers of TEDx Santa Cruz don’t just talk about this year’s theme, ‘radical collaboration’—they live it

 

Pluto Retrograde, Aries New Moon, Lyrid Meteor Showers

As the Lyrid meteors, radiating from the star Vega in the Harp constellation, begin showering heaven and earth with light, Pluto, planet of transformation (or die) turns stationary retrograde (Thursday, April 16), 15 degrees Capricorn. Retrogrades have purpose, allowing humanity time to review, reassess, research and reinvent while returning to previous situations. Retrogrades are times of inner activity, seeds sown in bio-dynamically prepared soil. Pluto retrograde is the most serious and resolute of retrogrades—a pure tincture, or, as in homeopathy, a “constitutional” touching the essences of all that matters. Pluto offers deep insight into confusion or puzzlement and areas where transformation is still incomplete. It’s valuable to have one’s astrology chart to follow what area of life the major planets— especially Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto—are influencing. These outer planets have long-term and lasting effects on our psyche, inner/outer life events, how people see us and how we see and process our world. Pluto, retrograde for five months (until Sept. 24) offers deep earthquakes of change, awakens humanity to the task of building (Capricorn) the new culture and civilization, flailing our inner world about, deepening us until we transform and do things differently. Pluto is an unrelenting teacher. New moon (29 Aries) is Saturday, April 18. With the personality-building keynote, “Let form again be sought.” Mars anchors the new creative fires of Aries into our world. The New Group of World Servers participates together in the new moon festival, while also preparing for the Taurus Wesak, Buddha Full Moon Festival (May 3). Join us everyone.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Mighty Leaf

Radicchio from Dirty Girl Produce, wine etiquette fail, and a treat from Gayle’s

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

37th Parallel Wines

I visited the Capitola Mall recently to check out the newly launched Third Fridays Walking Art Tour, and was surprised to find an impressive assortment of artwork from local artists.

 

New Bohemian Brewery

New Santa Cruz brewery focuses on European style lagers