Sadly, this is not a Goodyear for La Cage

Review by Paul Nelson

LA Cage Aux Folles has re-emerged at Wimbledon Theatre in what has now come to be almost an annual event. The last production, in January last year, was a superb professional knockout. I would have wished this production to have been no less an evening.

The show deals with two middle aged homosexual lovers, Georges and Albin. Georges owns a transvestite nightclub in St Tropez, La Cage Aux Folles, and Albin is its star performer, ZsaZsa.

When Georges' son from a brief liaison with a chorus girls years before, Jean-Michel, arrives to tell them that he is to marry the daughter of the local moral crusader, who naturally wants to meet his family, panic sets in. Jean-Michel's mother is sent for and Albin is persuaded to impersonate 'Uncle' Al. He naturally dislikes this because all his performances have been as a female.

The wife Sybille wires them to say she cannot make it and Albin returns to his wardrobe to reappear as Jean-Michel's mother.

This farcical situation is brought to a head when Albin, singing at a restaurant they attend, traditionally takes off his wig to the applause and all is revealed.

It's a sure fire plot and certain winner. Alas, something has gone sadly wrong.

The last production was a Wimbledon Theatre in-house production and had the splendid Robin Sherringham as its director, a professional who used a fair percentage of professionals plus the cream performers of the amateur circuit.

The result, achieved no doubt through a succession of painful and possibly tearful rehearsals, was one of precision and joy.

The producer of the present production is Jeremy Hobbs, and he has been associated with this show in many of its reincarnations in the past, mostly emanating from the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, where he enjoys a certain success. He too, has used a mix of professionals and amateurs.

That something has gone wrong is indeed evident from the current production. It isn't because Hobbs has cast himself as the leading man Georges. He possesses a sure charm and enough theatrical nous to walk it. The 'leading lady' ZsaZsa and Albin is also played with charm and surety by Ian Casey who has a very pleasant voice and manner.

As their butler Jacob, who insists he is not a butler but a maid, Donovan Cary provides a lorra laughs and rapidly establishes himself as the audience's favourite clown.

Also the two juveniles, Jean-Michel and Anne are played with an equal amount of conviction by Alan England and Becci Kilvert, and the chorus Les Cagelles, all but four being men in drag as befits La Cage Aux Folles, are similarly talented.

The problem is that the show doesn't knit together. For a start my alarm bells rang when I realised there is no credit for a director and there must, as anyone who ever goes to a theatre anywhere realises, be a driver.

Long embarrassing pauses while scenes are changed have no place in the theatre of the 21st Century and certainly not in a fast paced musical. The tight book of this musical is thrown away on these gaps in the action and consequently the evening falters and finally succumbs to longueurs not of its making.

For some reason the show stars Julie Goodyear who has the tiny part of restaurant owner Jacqueline, a role so insignificant that it could conceivable have been covered by one of the chorus.

Miss Goodyear made her name in a different medium to that of the theatre, and it shows. Presumably in an attempt to vie with all the drag in the show, her first entrance is in a blue all sequinned gown, and her second in a red all sequinned gown. I'm afraid no amount of reflective sequins can compensate for the fact that the light is out. She was dutifully accorded a round of applause from the audience, which, contrary to previous audiences for this show was composed not of bright young males in sequins of their own, but mainly by rather elderly ladies, drawn no doubt, by the presence of Miss Goodyear.

La Cage Aux Folles now goes on tour and in its entire enormity is due to hit Cardiff, Birmingham, York, Hull, Bradford and Nottingham.

La Cage Aux Folles. Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Harvey Fierstein. Produced by Jeremy Hobbs Associates Ltd in association with The Grand Theatre Wolverhampton by arrangement with Pro-Am Productions. Wigs and Make-up Steven Metcalfe, Choreography by Mike Capri, Musical Director Paul Sawtell, Associate Director James Masters.
With Jeremy Hobbs (Georges), Ian Casey (Albin), Donovan Cary (Jacob), Alan England (Jean-Michel), Becci Kilvert (Anne), Ruth Shepherd (Marie Dindon), Richard Masters (Edouard Dindon), and Julie Goodyear (Jacqueline).
With Les Cagelles: Scott Ritchie, Natalie Wilcox, Greg Pichery, Amy Smith, Scott Campbell, Maria Eleftheriou, Lathon-Mark Bailey, Lois Brooker, Alex Taylor, Stuart Simons, Craig Thompson, Jeremy Wootton.