Tag Archives: Jerry Herman

REVIEW: La Cage aux Folles – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Mack and Mabel – The Playhouse, Edinburgh

The original 1974 Broadway production of Mack and Mabel had such a critical mauling that it lasted only 66 performances. Jonathan Church’s revival, (with a revised book) for Chichester Festival Theatre, currently touring the UK, has well and truly laid those demons to rest.

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Despite its reputation as a musical tragedy, recounting as it does, the doomed relationship between egomaniacal, single-minded, silent film director Mack Sennett (Michael Ball) and deli-worker turned movie star, Mabel Normand (Rebecca LaChance), this is a surprisingly upbeat, and thoroughly entertaining show.

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To its credit, it doesn’t shy away from the less palatable aspects of the pair’s tumultuous lives; Sennett’s bullying and scant regard for those around him and Normand’s drug and alcohol addiction are all shown here. As a musical theatre hero, Sennett certainly falls short, effectively illustrated in his relationship with the young office assistant who went on to become the legendary Frank Capra, who delivers some home truths to Sennett about his part in Normand’s downfall. It’s a refreshing change from the usual musical theatre fodder.

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Ball has proven his dramatic worth since his role as Sweeney Todd, and he is exceptional here. Never trying to get the audience on his side, he is uncompromising, playing the character as it is; big, bold, brash and bullying. LaChance is a delightful Mabel, her wide-eyed charm and grating Noo Yawk accent, well-judged.

There is fabulous attention to detail in every aspect of this production. Jerry Herman’s knock-out score is brilliantly played by the outstanding band and the ensemble sound stunning when singing as one. Robert Jones wonderfully ingenious set and costume designs are dazzling. The use of projections is among the best I’ve ever seen, being both original and witty and Stephen Mears choreography is a delight, visually stunning and inventive.

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There are some glorious set pieces here: the ‘Roman’ movie scene, the bathing beauties and the brilliant Keystone Cops are particular highlights.

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I often find that the mark of a truly great show is how quickly time passes – and this whipped along at a break-neck pace. Stunning to look at and listen to, this truly is a five-star production.

Runs at the Playhouse, Edinburgh until Saturday 22 November 2015