Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tap Dancing Drag Queens and Lessons on the Love of Family - My review of La Cage aux Folles at North Shore Music Theater

la cage aux folles, london, french riviera, nsmt, drag, the birdcage, theater, music theater, north shore music theater, beverly, boston, jennifer amero
Last night I was delighted to attend the opening of Bill Hanney's North Shore Music Theater's run of La Cage aux Folles. For anyone who isn't familiar with the story, you can reference The Bird Cage, the hilarious Robin Williams and Nathan Lane film based on this play by Jean Poiret which debuted on Broadway in 1983. La Cage aux Folle is a story about love, acceptance and loyalty found in the most unconventional of families - a gay couple who own a drag nightclub of which "mom" is the star.

la cage aux folles, london, french riviera, nsmt, drag, the birdcage, theater, music theater, north shore music theater, beverly, boston, jennifer amero
The opening number was SPECTACULAR! Noisy, clicking tap shoes worn by the gorgeous male dance troupe donning short jewel toned gowns with a tres French feel set the vibe for a high energy gender bender of a drag show musical. "We Are What We" punctuated both the point of the play and the importance of the club - both are really about accepting our differences and celebrating the community of freedom to be.

The cross dressing theme runs through the entire show with female valets in monkey suits and mustaches, lots of head scratching speculation as to whether that woman is being played by a woman and discreet attempts to identify telltale undergarments. OK, I'm sure I'm not the only one.

 Even Jacob,the butler is in drag and refers to herself as the maid, and like everyone else, aspires to get on stage in La Cage aux Folles. It's worth noting that the character of Jacob was a last minute cast change that was a brilliant stroke of luck. Nikko Kimzin was DAZZLING and positively belly-laugh funny as the muy caliente Latin butler-come-maid who's a equal parts protector and predator over the couples' son Jean-Michel, played by Zach Trimmer.

Speaking of Jean-Michel, the plot line centers on how he, presumably the only hetrosexual on all of the Cote d'Azur falls not only for a woman, but for the daughter of Monsiuer Dindon, played by Larry Cahn. M. Dindon is the hard headed, hard hitting leader of a moral cleansing faction bent on cleaning up the bawdy clubs on the Riviera, of which La Cage is likely the bawdiest.

And M. Dindon is coming to dinner.

- It doesn't help that Jean's parents, Albin, played by the perfectly dramatic Jonathan Hammond and George played by Charles Shaughnessy (of "The Nanny" fame) live above the club in a garishly gay apartment. Their effort to "clean up their act" results in an outrageously tacky religious redecoration that's positively ridiculous.

la cage aux folles, london, french riviera, nsmt, drag, the birdcage, theater, music theater, north shore music theater, beverly, boston, jennifer ameroJean implores his father to invite his detached and disinterested biological mother to attend the dinner, slighting the hyper-emotional Albin with a request that he play the role of "Uncle Al" , opening the door to a preposterously funny series of hetro-lessons in  "Masculinity" including a failed attempt to eat toast like John Wayne. You've gotta watch to understand.

By the way, mom is a no-show. Albin is maternally incensed and heartbroken for her boy and springs to action employing his special skills to salvage Jean's dinner.

Hammond's Albin is a character with such complicated appeal it was easy to feel for him and to understand the pain of rejection that Jean's proposal causes. Albin is a little broken, a little silly, a little self indulgent and a whole lot lovable. He's every bit the lady of the house and the emotional surge of estrogen is worn on his sleeve.  His performance in "A Little More Mascara" spoke to me in a way ladies AND queens will appreciate  As Elizabeth Taylor once said, " Pour yourself a drink. Put some lipstick on and pull yourself together". The show must go on.

elizabeth taylor, lipstick, la cage aux folles, london, french riviera, nsmt, drag, the birdcage, theater, music theater, north shore music theater, beverly, boston, jennifer ameroThe story is as touching as it is funny and as sweet as it is sparkly. "With You On My Arm" is drippingly romantic and was executed by Shaughnessy and Hammond so beautifully, the audience is quickly invested in fighting off the religious intolerance and threats to the family that M. Dindon represents on behalf of our gentle pair.

"Look Over There" brought me to tears more than once and really hit home in delivering the message that family are the people who love you above all else and turning your back on those people to keep up appearances is a dangerously hurtful thing to do. It's a poignant story wrapped in a decadent package but it's an important story nonetheless. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I highly recommend La Cage aux Folles at NSMT. It's running through October 6th. I would not miss this one. NSMT just keeps getting better. Tickets at: www.nsmt.org





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