REVIEW: “La Cage Aux Folles” – of cage and madness
We start with a modestly-opened cage, and a promise of madness. We ended with the cage ajar, slightly melted (from the heat of excitement) and tear-off-ones-clothes, running-amok-in-the-middle-of-the-storm mania.
This month marks the second run of 9 Works Theatrical’s production of La Cage Aux Folles – four months after its initial, successful run from February to March this year. The show was based from the original 1983 Broadway production about a unique family, both in blood (Georges and Jean-Michel with Albin who assumed the role of the latter’s mother after the former “accidentally” impregnated Sybil, an unseen character, who we will only know by name) and by virtue of extension and shared love (the fantabulous Les Cagelles; the jovial, not-the-butler- but- the-maid Jacob, I mean, Claudine; Jacqueline, and Francis). The story focuses on the family’s adventures and misadventures following Jean-Michel’s engagement announcement. He was to marry the daughter of the leader of “Tradition, Family and Morality Party,” and this alone speaks volumes of the conflict that befalls our characters. The story handled a possibly controversial societal dilemma with humor, a certain degree of nonchalance, but always, with flaming flamboyance that kept everyone at the edge of their seats.
The production featured lavish set design that helped create the mood for the hedonistic French lifestyle of its age – from the magnificent Saint-Tropez to the opulence of Georges and Albin’s household: everything spelled style and sass. The ubiquitous amputated statue in the household that possibly served as homage to Michaelangelo’s David, was a nice touch; it almost served as a standing inside joke between Jacob and the audience.
The lighting truly served its purpose to illuminate the talent on stage. It played according to the frivolity of the cast’s exuberance; it dimmed to make the mood somber when Georges sang about his love in “Song On the Sand,” or when Albin willfully declared and defended his personal choices in “I am what I am.”
The costume, which was perhaps one of the show’s biggest stressors behind the scene, was colorful, resplendent, indulgent and vibrant. It was a set of clothing that would be the envy of every queen. Audie Gemora’s Albin and Noel Rayos’ Jacob were perhaps the two characters with the most frequent costume change, and each transformation dressed their personalities with more shades and color than that of the rainbow’s. To add onto the color was an equally magnificent, always fitting make-up that transformed the handsome faces of Les Cagelles to beautiful ladies.
Each character performed with the same level of energy and playfulness as the other. Les Cagelles sighed, oohed, tap-danced and performed splits that will forever be etched in the minds of the audience. Steven Silva’s Jean-Michel was lovestruck as the fiancé, and reasonably obstinate as the rebellious child of a homosexual couple. Joni Galeste’s Anne Dindon was innocent, wide-eyed and fiercely loyal; as a dancer, she flitted in our hearts in the same way she did in Jean-Michel’s. Michael de Mesa as Georges, was a doting husband and father; his characterization was soft, indulgent, and never once did he become unloving. This gentleness was evident and pleasantly consistent, even as he proudly announced the different acts in his club, La Cage Aux Folles. Noel Rayos as Jacob, nay, Claudine – stole the show mercilessly. Never once were we sorry, as he provided a more than memorable character that proved that there is a lot more to gay comedy than over-the-top vulgar quips and jokes. His acting prowess shone, made him extremely endearing that one can’t help but feel his absence when he is not on stage. Perhaps most notable was Audie Gemora’s Albin. To say that he was a force of nature is an understatement. He took the stage with the energy of a Category 5 hurricane and left us reeling in the aftermath. He made us squeal with much enthusiasm when he sashayed on stage, weep when the world came crashing down on him – even that was visible in his face, as though a curtain was being drawn slowly shut upon finding out that he could not be present in Jean-Michel’s wedding. He also made us guffaw when trying out a John Wayne persona, and he made us fall in love with their romantic story.
Director Robbie Guevara should be radiating with pride for another chance to replicate, if not top, the previous La Cage Aux Folles run. 9 Works Theatrical was on point in choosing such relevant material to be staged. In this age where homosexual parenting is still a source of controversy and debate, we are shown the humanity of the “third gender” some people are still biased against. We see that at the end of it all, what matters is love – and that’s all we need. -PDU
La Cage Aux Folles is showing on weekends that started on August 15 and will continue until September 6, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza.
Have you seen the show? What did you think?