It’s a story that’s been told for centuries. Young lovers come from widely divergent backgrounds. One comes from a more orthodox family, often rich, while the other was brought up differently somehow. So differently, that one or the other of the couple feels the need to mask his or her background from the other. Often it is money that creates the difference. Sometimes it has more to do with where they are from or what political party they espouse.
But in the case of La Cage Aux Folles, the difference has rather more to do with lifestyle, so to speak. You see, the girl, Anne, is the child of wealthy, aristocratic, conservative (to say the least) parents. In fact, her father is running for office on the platform of cleaning up all the strip joints and drag bars from St. Tropez, France, where the show takes place. Jean-Michel, on the other hand, is the son of two men who own the most famous, as well as infamous, establishment around. One, Georges, is the host of the show and the other, Albin, is the main attraction, an aging but talented drag queen who performs under the stage name of Zaza. When Jean-Michel comes home to break the news that he is marrying a woman, that’s enough of a shock to his dads, but when he adds the additional blow of who his fiancee’s father is, things become even more complicated. The final straw is when he asks that they hide Albin’s existence from Anne’s parents and have his biological mother stand-in, they are devastated, but finally, agree. Unfortunately, Jean-Michel’s mom fails to come through yet again. And that’s where the hilarity ensues.
And hilarity abounds in the Actors Guild of Parkersburg’s production of La Cage aux Folles. Director Brent Null’s staging of the musical extravaganza, which was written by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman and based on a play by Jean Poiret, is just plain fun. It’s loud and raucous, bawdy, at times shockingly inappropriate, and at all times entertaining. Joe Reeves as Albin is worth the price of admission all by himself. He makes the audience laugh one minute, blush the next, and feel great sorrow the next. While the show is lighthearted fun, the undertone of struggling to be accepted in a world that doesn’t understand or even agree with how you live is definitely there. And Reeves plays it beautifully.
The cast is strong, as is the norm for the Guild. Even the small parts are well acted. The closest I can come to being critical is that the gentlemen, who I’m guessing are not accustomed to the costumes and accouterments, struggled with hair and headdresses. They played it off well, though, and managed to generate some laughs. And I am sure that will get better as the actors get more and more used to them. The singing is fine, the acting is great, and all the technical elements are, as always, spot on.
You should go see this show. It might not be for small children, though most of the really colorful jokes will probably go over their heads. Adults will have a blast, so get your tickets as soon as possible. I would not be surprised if every show sells out. The curtain goes up Friday, July 26 at 8:00 p.m., with subsequent evening performances on July 27 and August 2, 3, 9, and 10. A 2:30 p.m. matinee will take place on July 28, with a 6:00 p.m. showing on August 4. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 304-485-1300 or by going to actors-guild.com.