Saturday, 14 February 2009


To London to see a predictably sparkly, yet surprisingly thought-provoking production of the 1983 musical comedy La Cage aux Folles.

Based on the 1978 French film of the same title, the show is set in and around the eponymous St Tropez nightclub, which features a high-kicking chorus line of stunning beauties, all of whom just happen to be chaps - as is the diva Zsa Zsa (aka Albin), the wildly self-dramatising star of the show.

The proprietor of La Cage (and Albin's long-term partner) is Georges. Thanks to a youthful 'aberration', he's the father of Jean-Michel, whom Georges and Albin have raised together.

The show opens as Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a right-wing politician, whose root-and-branch social clean-up agenda makes the Moral Majority's programme seem somewhat louche.

With his prospective in-laws poised to visit his family home, Jean-Michel demands that his father put on a very straight face.

But what about Albin, next to whom Julian Clary would look like Lawrence DeLaglio? What chance is there of him joining this particular performance?

His take on the situation triggers the deliciously farcical - and surprisingly moving - unravelling of the plot.

With music and lyrics by Jerry (Hello Dolly) Herrman and Harvey Fierstein, the show was one of the first mainstream musicals to feature a same-sex relationship. And despite the be-sequinned setting, there's real depth and dignity to the presentation of Albin and Georges.

Similarly, along with the laughs, we're gently invited to re-assess received definitions of parenthood and partnership.

And there are some fabulous songs as well, including the anthem 'I am what I am' - surprisingly un-cheesy when heard in context.

The cast is uniformly excellent. Special mention for Graham Norton as Albin. A bit of a revelation: funny, touching, a serviceable voice - and a terrific pair of legs.

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