Jerry Herman’s book and lyrics, coupled with a book by Harvey Fierstein, have moved La Cage Aux Folles into the league of Broadway classics. San Diego Musical Theatre’s current production is robust, combining the musical’s sparkle and uplifting message in a crowd-pleasing evening.
La Cage was originally a play over four decades ago, then became a French-Italian film in 1978 and the original Broadway production debuted in 1983. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane assayed the story in the 1996 film The Birdcage.
Clearly, the plot resonates through the years.
SDMT’s Founding Directors (Erin and Gary Lewis) have assembled a great team, with Director Larry Raben at the helm. The three leads are very strong. David Engel plays Albin (who in turn plays Zaza); Engel’s confidence is crucial and palpable. Robert J. Townsend plays his lover Georges, the master of ceremonies and director of the eponymous St. Tropez club in which the musical unfolds. James Vasquez runs through a plethora of costume changes as Jacob, and proves an able foil.
The theme of “We Are What We Are” evolves into “I Am What I Am” through the first act, with the Cagelles setting the stage with dexterity and aplomb.
Other high points include “Song on the Sand” (which is reprised in the second act) and “Look Over There.” The latter is the fulcrum of the story, as parent and child come to realize the depth of each other’s love. The troupe pays homage to an institution further north, Le Moulin Rouge, in a particularly rousing number.
Kudos to Karl Warden and his amazing choreography, which interweaves all cast members fluidly. The production by Bret Young and David Medina befits the grand Spreckels Theatre.
San Diego is blessed with SDMT’s focus on the richness of musical theatre. Next year’s lineup of Ragtime, 42nd Street and The Producers promises more musical enjoyment.
La Cage Aux Folles runs through October 11.
Tickets available here.
(Photos by Ken Jacques)