The much-loved La Cage aux Folles has had a long history: from Jean Poiret’s original 1973 play, then the 1978 French/Italian movie production, it became a stage musical in 1983 before becoming the English language film The Birdcage in 1996. It’s surprising to learn that despite numerous Broadway and West End revivals this is the first professional UK tour.
Georges (Adrian Zmed) and Albin (John Partridge) run the most glamorous nightclub in St. Tropez, where Albin stars as the glamorous drag artist Zaza. When Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Dougie Carter) announces his plans to marry the daughter of a straight-laced homophobic politician set on closing the nightclub, mayhem ensues.
It’s astonishing to think that this show is nearly 45 years old and even more astonishing to think how long it has taken for attitudes to change. This story of tolerance and acceptance is wrapped up in a blinding amount of sequins and feathers, and yes, it is awash with every camp cliché, but thankfully, Tony Award-winning Harvey Fierstein’s adaptation does justice to both the original subject matter and the message it conveys. It may sound glib to say it, but La Cage aux Folles is truly heart-warming, and the oohs, aaaahs, whistles and boos it elicits from its audience and the absolute warmth with which the whole production is received is enough to melt the most frozen of hearts.
Gary McCann’s design reads well in the auditorium, the full-on glamour of the club contrasting well with the faded glamour of Georges and Albin’s apartment and the costumes are universally on-point.
Partridge is an oustanding Albin/Zaza, it is a role tailor-made to showcase his acting, dancing and singing skills and US TV favourite Adrian Zmed is a fine Georges, there’s a deftness of touch in his portrayal of a character that could easily have been rendered a caricature, he is also in possession of a fine singing voice. Dougie Carter as son Jean-Michel is also a stand-out, a fine actor, his classic, musical-theatre tenor voice is a joy. Unusually, and wonderfully, there isn’t a single weak-link in the entire production.
This is a production that will put a spring in the step and a song in the heart of even the most jaded theatre-goer. In a theatre scene brimful of repeated revivals and lacklustre works, this is a breath of fresh air – a genuine must-see.
Runs at Glasgow, King’s Theatre until Saturday 29 July 2017
All images: Pamela Raith