As the lead song in this show goes, 'life's not worth a damn till you can shout out I am what I am’. This important message of acceptance sits at the very heart of this latest version of La Cage aux Folles, a musical which, in all its fab-u-lous camp glory, doesn’t disappoint.
You could ponder whether this show is as relevant today as when it first stormed Broadway back in the early 1980s, winning countless prestigious awards.
Well, in this strange new world in which we find ourselves - facing right-wing extremism across Europe and religious fundamentalists campaigning in America to repeal some of those hard-fought LGBT equality rights - this lavish new production couldn’t be more relevant if it tried.
Yes, okay, we’ve got gay marriage in the UK (well, except Northern Ireland, of course), equal LGBT adoption rights and so on - and yes, we've even got Grindr! - but judging by the euphoric standing ovation afforded this spangly new version of La Cage, its audience is in no doubt whatsoever about the show’s modern-day relevance.
Relevant it most certainly is - and resoundingly so.
Don’t be put off by the show’s French title. If you’ve ever seen the Robin Williams film The Birdcage, La Cage is essentially a camp, musical version of that. Perhaps think ‘Moulin Rouge meets Danny La Rue’ and you’ll get the idea.
The cast, costumes and set are all fabulous. Adrian Zmed as Albin’s husband Georges, Dougie Carter as Georges’ son Jean-Michele and Marti Webb as restauranteur Jacqueline - together with Samson Ajewole as the camp butler (or is he the maid?) - all deliver super-duper performances.
But the real shining light of the show is John Partridge, who pulls off an incredible five-star performance. His portrayal of Albin is outstanding. He certainly makes the role completely his own - he’s bold, camp, brash and, surprisingly, very, very northern!
Partridge’s ‘stand-up’ segment in the show is hilarious; his off-the-cuff ad-libs have the audience in stitches. And his heartfelt rendition of I Am What I Am, a song that’s become a truly legendary gay anthem, is absolutely spellbinding and performed with huge emotion - resulting in a rare standing ovation at the interval, with a second, much deserved, at the finale.
The plot is simple. La Cage aux Folles, a drag cabaret club on the French Riviera, is run by Georges and his partner Albin, who’s the star of their cabaret show in the guise of his alter-ego Zaza. Georges’ son Jean Michele announces he’s getting married and has invited his girlfriend and future in-laws for dinner. But his future father-in-law is a homophobic right-wing politician who’s set on shutting down ‘immoral’ drag and gay clubs. Not wanting to upset the apple cart for Jean Michele, Georges and Albin try and hide the truth about their lives - with hilarious results!
So if you know and love La Cage, this lavish new Bill Kenwright production is simply a must-see.
If you aren’t familiar with the show, then ‘bang your own drum and see things from a different angle’ by getting a ticket now! You’ll have a night filled with laughter, heart-break and all the camp, glitzy, drag flamboyance that La Cage aux Folles delivers in glorious abundance.
La Cage Aux Folles runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 20 May. Book your tickets now!
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