It’s a bonanza, it’s a mad extravaganza and it’s arrived at Dundalk Community Theatre to close out their season. With Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman and the Book by Harvey Fierstein, La Cage aux Folles will be taking the audiences of Dundalk to the romantic shores of St. Tropez where love must find a way to flourish in the face of adversity in all of its feathery and sparkly splendor. Directed by Tom Colonna, this hilarious musical is really just a traditional tale of family values at its finest; ahead of its time for the 70’s and loaded with lots to see.
Marc W. Smith brings more than a touch of elegance to the resplendent sets as the show’s Scenic Designer. It’s the fabulous old Hollywood style sign that really gives the nightclub its extra pop of pizzazz in Smith’s designs. The flamboyant pink-streaked apartment pales only in comparison to the vividly colored tranquility of the St. Tropez backdrop for scenes out on the town. The sets are impressive for this grandiose musical, Smith leaving no thought unturned when it comes to shifting from outdoors to inside.
Just who is who and what is what is quite the question in the costume department. Having no specific designer and coordinating costumes from a variety of sources, there is a calamitous clash in the wardrobe department of this show. This however, ironically enough, works in the show’s favor as much of what happens in the plot is one chaotic disaster after another, so having that chaos, however inadvertently, reflected into the costumes creates a symbolic parallel to the show’s running plot devices. The gowns and overall outfits for Zaza are breathtaking, particularly the sapphire blue fitting dress draped in rhinestones and crystals for the Act I finale. Other costumes seem to pay more of an homage or tribute of sorts to the era from which the musical originated. The clown-ruffled robes that could be considered a hybrid between butterfly costumes and moomoos, which cover the Cagelles in the opening number immediately come to mind.
Choreographer Tom Wyatt keeps the Cagelles on their toes throughout the show. Lead by Chantal (Jimmy Biernatowski) the tap routine in the opening number, “We Are What We Are” is quite fierce. Biernatowski is a performer worth noting for the exceptional body movement during these dance routines as well as the overall talent displayed as a tap-dancer in general. Keep your eye on Biernatowski for polished form among these dancing Cagelles.
Performances of note among the minor roles include the spastic stage manager Francis (Henry Reisinger Jr.) With his perpetual panic, which is played out in a cartoonish fashion, he becomes hilarious for the few moments he graces the stage. Terrified by Hanna (Bernard Jacobs), who is the dominatrix Cagelle, Reisinger makes the most of his moments and gives the audience a good laugh for them. Jacqueline (Nadine Wellington) is also an exceptional character to note. A major personality that will be heard and seen, Wellington delivers saucy French reality right down to her exaggerated accent. It’s her dulcet delicate voice that joins Albin for “The Best of Times is Now” which really lands her mark as a noteworthy performer in this production.
The Dindon family is what creates the drama for this show’s hilarity. Deputy Dindon (James Hunnicutt) and his Wife (Kristen Cooley) and their daughter Anne (Amanda Dickson) arrive to the house of Georges and Albin and the farce ensues. Hunnicutt and Cooley are a great comic flavoring to add to the show with Hunnicutt providing a rigid austerity that translates directly into uproarious hysterics come the finale of the show. Cooley’s impressive performance even includes a bit of gymnastics so be sure not to miss her at the end of the show either.
Jean-Michel (Randy Dunkel) starts the whole problem in motion by wishing to marry Anne. Dunkel’s voice is quite crisp and very powerful, his solo “With Anne on My Arm” delivered with joviality and excitement. It’s his interactions with Georges (Jeff Burch) that keep things interesting. Burch has a seasoned voice, perfect for the age of his character. Adding that seasoned sound to songs like “Song on the Sand” and “Look Over There” these musical numbers feel timeless and classic while also sounding wonderful to the ear.
With Herculean strength, Edward J. Peters stars opposite Burch as Albin, the married drag queen who may have reached that certain age that no man wishes to address in his life. Stunning vocals, breathtaking emotions, sassy quips, luscious lips; Peters has it all. Delivering sensational sound and determination for “A Little More Mascara” he enthralls the audience with his transformation to Zaza. A real crowd pleaser with impeccable comic timing, Peters nurses and tends to the humorous situations in the musical in true flamboyant fashion. Hearing him sing “I Am What I Am” stirs hard in the heartstrings of every heart. If you need a reason to venture out to Dundalk to see this show, Peters is it, hands down.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
La Cage aux Folles plays through May 11, 2014 at Dundalk Community Theatre— College of Baltimore County in Building K, at the John E. Ravekes Theatre – 7200 Sollers Point Road, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (443) 840-2787, or purchase them online.
Enjoy the teaser video here.