La Cage aux Folles
book Harvey Fierstein
music & lyrics Jerry Herman
based on the play by Jean Poiret
director Tim Sheader
musical director Ben van Tienen
choreography Stephen Mear
sets Colin Richmond
lighting Howard Hudson
Regent's Park Theatre, London • 29.Jul-16.Sep
It's been 40 years since this musical premiered on Broadway, and 50 years since the original French play was written, and yet there are no signs of ageing in this buoyant and inventive new production under the open air in Regent's Park. Avoiding the usual drag cliches, the designers have gone for something fresh and eye-catchingly offbeat, celebrating the full range of queer identities in all their frisky, camp glory. It's the kind of show that cant help but put a huge smile on your face, even as it elicits a tear or two of happy emotion while sharply poking weighty themes.
All of this is infused with deep feelings, as the show beautifully establishes the relationships from the start, giving the conflicts a sense of authenticity that's often powerfully moving. At the centre is the issue that Albin raised Jean-Michel as his son, playing the maternal role in his life. The way the situation is resolved is surprisingly complex but never heavy-handed. And the political issues gurgle strongly without taking over, adding new resonance at a time when ignorant lawmakers are trying to criminalise drag artists.
A couple of the other numbers aren't quite as strong, the period is a bit of a muddle, and the story's conclusion feels rushed and perhaps unsatisfying. But the dazzling finale more than makes up for that. By reinventing this venerable musical so creatively, this company has breathed new life into Harvey Fierstein's witty book and Jerry Herman's indelible music. It was always timely, and now it's also clearly timeless.
For details: REGENT'S PARK THEATRE >