Review: ‘La Cage aux Folles’ at Other Voices Theatre

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With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, La Cage aux Folles running at Other Voices Theatre is a splendid spectacle stuffed with laughs and many poignant moments about the simple subject of love. Superbly directed by Susan Thornton, the show features a hilariously heartwarming collection of emotionally powerful and hysteric moments.

David Porterfield and Samn Huffer. Photos courtesy of Other Voices Theatre.
David Porterfield and Samn Huffer.  Photo courtesy of Other Voices Theatre.

In La Cage aux Folles, Georges and Albin lead a charming, albeit unconventional lifestyle, living above the drag nightclub and the show’s title, La Cage Aux Folles, in Europe. Albin as a drag queen “Zaza” is the star performer while Georges manages and runs the nightclub. Complete with feathers, glitz and sparkles, the gay couple’s lifestyle is fabulous. Georges has a son, Jean-Michel, from a one night encounter with a woman many years ago, who completes their happy family. However, the family is taken for a spin when Jean-Michel suddenly announces he’s met the girl of his dreams, proposed, and now his fiance’s ultra conservative, traditional lifestyle platform political family is coming to meet Jean-Michel’s most nontraditional family, in a hilarious case of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?!

Sam Huffer excels as the club owner and emcee for the audience, Georges. As the straight man (pardon the pun) and more reserved character to all the comedy in the production. Huffer’s dry wit and old school charm is sensational. He has the best one-liners in the show and sometimes a dryly observed three or four word comment could bring the house down. Huffer also pulled at the heartstrings with his gentle, loving solo “Song on the Sand.”

As the La Cage star and other half of the main couple, David Porterfield packs an emotional powerhouse as Albin, also known as drag star “Zaza.” Porterfield displays an exceptional star quality entirely fitting to the character and a fabulous sense of comedic timing. His opening solo “(A Little More) Mascara” was exceptional and his barely concealed rage and surprisingly reserved performance on the character’s well known number “I Am What I Am” left very few dry eyes in the house. Porterfield also went deliciously over-the-top throughout the show, typically leaving the audience in hysterics with such simple acts as even walking or sitting.

Porterfield and Huffer make an exceptional pair, greatly playing up the contrast between the two personalities and letting the loving emotions clearly show through. Their relaxed chemistry and playfulness during “With You On My Arm” was one of the best moments of the production.

Thomas Bricker as their son, Jean- Michel, was wholesomely earnest and flamboyant as a young man desperately in love. His opening solo, “With Anne on My Arm,” was utterly charming.

Rachel Weisenthal was adorable as Anne, Jean-Michel’s fiance and your typical girl next door. Weisenthal had a stand out moment in Act II when she finally stood up to her overbearing father and let her self confidence shine through.

As the blustering bigot Eduard Dindon, Glenn Frail does an exceptional job as the conservative, homophobic politician and villain figure in the musical. Frail’s sour facial expressions and arrogant demeanor are spot on for the straight laced politician. Angela Thompson as Madame Dindon, his wife, portrays a very sweet and subdued perfectly presented politician’s wife who gets a standout soprano moment in Act II that nearly stopped one of the musical numbers with applause.

Thompson also excels in a dual role as restaurant owner Madame Renaud and Ed Gabb is hilariously friendly and down-to-earth as restaurant owner, Mr. Renaud. Alex Prete is outstanding as hard-nosed stage manager, Francis, whose growing list of injuries and sarcastic comebacks formed a hysterical running gag during the show. Claudia Patterson is deliciously flighty and flirty as fine dining restaurant owner Jacqueline, who is a close friend of Georges and Albin.

If Porterfield provides the emotional center of the production and Huffer the sensible, comedic narrator, then Daniel Douek certainly steals the show as overly-flamboyant butler/maid, Jacob, a task not easy to accomplish in a cast filled with over-the-top flamboyant characters. Douek’s character voice and accent left the audience rolling as soon as he opened his mouth. Douek also has an impeccable sense of comedic timing and does a great job balancing his exceptional comedic bits without upstaging any of the other actors in the scene. 

 Les Cagelles Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Other Voices Theatre.
Les Cagelles Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Other Voices Theatre.

The Cagelles, played by Dan Henderson, Kasey Taylor, Richard Stonebraker, Donald Toms, Donald Harver, Riley Smith, and Scott Beadle, are all sassy and stunning in the nightclub acts and hilarious in their interactions during the backstage scenes. They strut confidently and sing proudly, and forewarning to any audience members uncomfortable with audience interactions: do not sit in the front row. The Cagelles often interact with the audience members as though they were in the nightclub, and some of their improvisations last night were excellent.

Music direction by Jonas Dawson is outstanding, with very crisp diction on many of the ensemble numbers and a fantastic addition of a live orchestra. The choreography by Donna Grim is flashy and high energy for the nightclub performance acts and simple and subdued for character duets or solos. There were some minor moments of uncertainty in choreography with some of the ensemble numbers, which I am sure will be resolved by the next performance.

Lighting, designed by Steve Knapp and Jim McGuire, is fantastic, with flashing marquee lights and an impressive lighting design, particularly during the Overture, for silhouettes of the nightclub performers that changed color on the upstage walls. The set, designed by Kyle Huth and Tim Huth, serves double duty as both the flashy nightclub and Georges’ and Albin’s charming Parisian apartment, with the change of only a few set pieces. And extra kudos to Thornton for a few very clever and unusual scene change ideas that kept the pace of the show moving and provided very fun transitions.

However, the truly magnificent spectacle in the show are the stunning costumes. Supplied by Nancy Speck, Patty Byrne, Regina Cox, Samn Huffer and Jayden Elyse, they were exquisite and fabulously flamboyant. Bedazzled sequined evening gowns for Albin/Zaza and enormous beaded headdresses for the Cagelles were stunning, while simpler every day ensembles for the characters off stage in everyday life were nicely patterned and well put together.

For a hilarious and heartwarming musical filled with glitz and glamor, don’t miss Other Voices Theatre’s La Cage Aux Folles. It’s magnifique!

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

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La Cage aux Folles plays through November 13, 2016, at Other Voices Theatre performing at the Performing Arts Factory  –  244 South Jefferson Street, in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 662-3722, or purchase them online.

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