Review: ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ at SF Playhouse (***)

by Charles Kruger

The Cast of “La Cage Aux Folles” at SF Playhouse. Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli.

Jean Poiret’s sturdy farce about a gay couple, one of whom is a famous drag queen, who try to pass themselves off as straight remains funny in every incarnation. The play was adapted into two hit films (most notably “The Birdcage” starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane) before achieving Broadway success with a score by Jerry Herman and a book adapted from the original by Harvey Fierstein. What could go wrong?

Very little, actually. The play is flimsy but effective, and who doesn’t enjoy drag queens, farce that makes fun of pompous puritans, and songs by Jerry Herman? Nobody I care to know, I suspect.

It may be that director Bill English and choreographer Kimberly Richards have tried a bit too hard to add some gravity to this souffle. The choreography, for example,  imitates Bob Fosse in an effort to add some darkness to the mix, that really doesn’t belong.

But who cares? The singing is grand and the comedy slapstick. You’ll laugh, you’ll hum, you’ll applaud. All of the performances charm. As Albin, (aka Zsa Zsa, the drag queen), John Treacy Egan does a workmanlike job. Egan is a bit of a Broadway legend, having been chosen by the powers that be to play not one but three of the leads during the course of the Broadway run of “The Producers,” including the role of Max Bialystock (originally created by Nathan Lane). Egan is obviously a performer of sterling reliability, if  not quite electrifying as Zsa Zsa. As his partner, Georges, Ryan Drummond is superbly cast. Georges is usually portrayed as a somewhat fay aging chorus boy type, masculine only in contrast to Albin/Zsa Zsa, but Drummond has the manner of a butch auto mechanic, while still conveying a believable love, even adoration, for Albin. When the very butch Drummond sings to Egan and launches into a dance, it is even more delicious than usual. As the couple’s adored son, Jean Michel, the good-looking Nikita Burshteyn demonstrates Broadway-level musical comedy chops. The loving chemistry between the three is the highlight of this production.

“La Cage Aux Folles” plays at the SF :Playhouse through September 26, 2017. For further information, click here.

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Rating: *** (For an explanation of Theatrestorm’s rating scale, click here.)

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“La Cage Aux Folles,” , produced by the SF Playhouse and Executive Producer Robert Hulteng. Book by Harvey Fierstein, Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman. Based on the play by Jean Poiret. Director: Bill English. Choreographer: Kimberly Richards. Music Director: Dave Dobrusky. Set: Jacquelyn Scott. Lighting: Robert Hand. Sound: Theodore J. H. Hulsker. Costumes: Abra Berman.

Cast:

Georges: Ryan Drummond. Angelique/Colette: Morgan Dayley. Mercedes/Jacqueline: Lee Ann Payne. Bitelle: Alex Hsu. Chantal: Brian Conway. Hanna/Tabarro: John Paul Gonzalez. Phaedra/Etienne: Nicholas Yenson. Francis: Robert Faltisco. Anne: Samantha Rose. Jacob: Brian Yates Sharber. Albin: John Treacy Egan. Jean-Michel: Nikita Burshteyn. M. Renaud/Edouard Dindon: Christopher Reber. Mme. Renaud/Marie Dindon: Adrienne Herro. 

 

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