Michael James is Pollard Theatre’s longtime resident costume designer and a capable actor, although he rarely appears onstage. But now, he’s giving a winning encore as Albin in Pollard’s production of La Cage aux Folles.
James’ performance is a joy to behold. His sequin-laden costumes look sharp, too.
He played Albin when Pollard staged La Cage in 2005, and one may wonder why it’s been revived now.
An excellent musical with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Harvey Fierstein, the show is about Albin and his lover, Georges (James A. Hughes), proprietors of La Cage aux Folles, a St. Tropez nightclub featuring female impersonators, where Albin is the headliner.
Their son, Jean-Michel (Joshua Thomas McGowen), the result of a one-night fling Georges had years ago, unexpectedly announces he’s marrying the daughter of an ultra-conservative, homophobic politician who’s promised to shut down all the St. Tropez transvestite clubs.
The future in-laws are coming to meet the young man’s family, and let’s just say complications ensue.
There’s a twist here: The politician is the daughter’s mother, instead of her father, as in every other La Cage I’ve seen. I don’t know who made this change, but one of our finest actors, Brenda Williams, plays the politician.
The switch doesn’t adversely affect the story, and a case could be made for switching Macbeth and Lady Macbeth if Williams were playing her. Or him. The reliable Michael Edsel does a fine job as the bride’s father.
W. Jerome Stevenson directs, as he did in 2005, with mixed results. This version seems tighter, but is somewhat less edgy. Some gratuitous contemporary references have been added.
Facebook and Kardashian nuptials are easy targets.
Jennifer Rosson returns as choreographer, and she gives Les Cagelles, the “girls” of La Cage, some snappy tap dancing. The Cagelles are immensely better than in the previous version. Much cuter, too.
The show is a good fit for the intimate Pollard Theatre. Chris Domanski’s set design is modest, if functional. The orchestra is reduced to a five-piece combo, giving it a highly synthesized sound.
The amplification just reinforces the voices without distorting them. This is the best sounding show that Pollard has put on in years.
In the finale, the Cagelles are on roller skates and toss beach balls into the audience. Oh, well, you gotta have a gimmick.