There are some plays, large-scale musicals that are difficult to stage in-the-round, so I was doubtful that Marriott Theatre could pull off “La Cage aux Folles” in their very intimate space, but wonder of wonders (to quote a song from another Jerry Herman show), under the solid direction of Joe Leonardi, with superb choreography by Melissa Zaremba, and a cast that is mind boggling, this is one of the best productions of this Harvey Fierstein/Jerry Herman musical I have ever seen.
Based on the play by Jean Poiret (French, of course) this striking story is that of a nightclub owner, Georges (a wonderful portrayal by David Hess) and his “partner” Albin (stunningly brought to life by Gene Weygandt, in a role that is one that I would never expect to see him play, but he does so to perfection), his star performer. The club is one where the talent is made up of female impersonators aka transvestites and while all female impersonators are not gay, this couple is. It does turn out that some 20 something years ago, Georges did have a hetero fling and the woman involved had a son, who has been raised by these two men, pretty much all his life.
Now, their son, Jean-Michel (Brian Bohr) returns home to tell his parents of his romance and impending wedding to Ann (the lovely Elizabeth Telford) and that her parents are coming to meet his parents. Now the situation changes and Jean-Michel wants his birth mother to come and take Albin’s place, causing friction between Georges and his lover. It also turns out that the future father-in-law, M. Dindon is anti everything that these men stand for so that is why Jean-Michel is so against Albin even being around.
The festivities of these families getting together, a major part of the second act is one of major hysteria as we learn the importance of staying true to oneself and to be who we are, no matter what others may think. Of course, as the play comes to an end, both families see the light and all of those concerned go on with their lives as they were for some and very newly adjusted for others. This is a powerful score with numbers such as “I Am What I am” (a powerful ending to the first act where Weygandt truly shows his stuff), “Song On The Sand”, the title song and “The Best of Times” a show-stopper every time I have seen this show.
The dance numbers are superb and the men who are the “Les cagelles”, J. Tyler Whitmer, Raymond Interior, Adam Estes, Jordan Fife-Hunt, Clayton Cross, Zachary L. Gray and Jhardon DiShon Milton will amaze and astound you with their abundance of talent and powerful performances. Joseph Anthony Byrd as Jacob, the butler/maid for Georges and Albin is amazingly funny and will probably get a nod from the Jeff Awards for his performance. In fact, I expect this to be a Jeff Award winner in several categories for this season.
Others in the cast who deserve some special notice; Susan Moniz, Annie Gunn, Larry Adams, Monique Haley and Liz Norton, along with Elizabeth Norton, Emily Glick, Javier Ferreira and Jason Richards. The sets (Thomas M.Ryan) are sparse as this is in-the-round, but they did give the impression that the director wanted us to see. The costumes (Nancy M) and sound (Robert E. Gilmartin) and lighting (Jesse Klug) along with the props (Sally Weiss) all add to the over all production, and the music under the direction of Ryan T. Neson, is sheer perfection. “La Cage” will continue at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, located at ten Marriott Drive through March 22nd with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.
Tickets range from $50-$55 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 847-634-0200 or online at www.MarriottTheatre.com. There are some dinner/theater packages available with some great dining spots at the resort. There are also lots of choices in the surrounding area. Plenty of free parking as well as Valet parking at the door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “La Cage aux Folles”