A surprise Christmas present lead me to the theatre to see the West End revival which started off at my favourite Off West End Theatre, La Menier. Here is my review:
Before seeing the show, I knew next to nothing of the plot or the characters. The composer is Jerry Herman, who has composed other notable musicals, such as Hello, Dolly! and Mack and Mabel, none of which I have seen, purely because all of the original productions were staged before I was born, and with the exception of Hello, Dolly! (which I sacrificed in favour of Forbidden Broadway) there have not been any revivals in London or the surrounding area. The score was listenable, light and enjoyable, although it was a bit on the short side. Lots of the songs were quite similar, but the absence of slow ballads kept the show moving at a good pace. The book was written by Harvey Fierstein, and incorporated a range of clever, and some not-so clever, jokes. Of course, lots of them could be seen coming a mile off, but this was the nature of the piece. The storyline was relatively simple and predictable, but the cast managed to raise this into an extremely enjoyable experience.
The set was good, not too much and not too little. The scene changes were quick and fit in well with the story, although there were a couple of instances where there was nothing happen except for the movement of scenery and scene change music, however these moments were so scarce that this did not really matter. It was clever how the main stage area showed action happening backstage at La Cage aux Folles, then immediately transformed into the on-stage area. The set fit in well with the era (1970s France) that the show was set in and transported the audience back into the era.
The direction was very good. The dialogue scenes were directed very well, with the actors given plenty to do, and the interpretation of most of the characters was satisfying and deep.
I liked the choreography of the dance numbers, although I felt some sections were not choreographed enough and looked a little untidy. I also thought that sometimes the stage was not big enough for all the actors so looked a bit crowded.
The lighting design was okay, a bit boring in scenes where I felt it could have been a bit more exciting, for example in scenes where it was the La Cage aux Folles show.
Douglas Hodge in the lead role of Albin/Zazza was really good, fulfilling all the camp aspects of the role but also bringing great depth and understanding to the role. It never felt as though he was trying too hard and it was tough to tell that he was acting throughout – a sign of a really great performance.
Denis Lawson was great as Georges, reminding me of Emcee in Cabaret at several points, and getting into the swing of the show. He also made all the relationships seem really realistic and interesting.
The ensemble, especially Les Cagelles, were fantastic, a really tight unit who made the show fun and seemed to each have their own personality whilst moving as one. The rest of the cast in named roles were also good, Tracie Bennett was particularly entertaining as Jacqueline and really stood out in the midst of a very strong company.
Overall, La Cage aux Folles was a surprisingly touching show and something that will stay with me for many years. I hope it continues the success that it deserves on Broadway, in the same way as A Little Night Music has been doing.