Theatre Review: “La Cage aux Folles” @ Broadway by the Bay, 09/18/10

La Cage aux Folles is the only Broadway show in history to win the Tony Award three times for best production – once in 1983 (Best Musical), again in 2005 (Best Revival) and then in 2010 (Best Revival, again)! With all of this acclaim, I still walked out of the San Mateo Performing Arts Center on Saturday night wondering why. I just wasn’t convinced. It’s a fun show, with a lot of heart, but the music written by Jerry Herman wasn’t my favorite and the script, while funny, wasn’t poignant enough for me. It’s a great summer romp through St. Tropez, France but the ending statement of love and acceptance wasn’t as strong as I thought it could be (especially in this political climate).

Broadway by the Bay’s production of La Cage Aux Folles is great and hits most of the right notes but yet, I somehow didn’t feel connected to the material or the characters at first. In retrospect, I think the sound was the culprit. It sounded like a giant wind tunnel for the first part of the show in that massive theatre.  I think it negatively affected my ability to connect with the characters. There were several instances where I couldn’t understand a word anyone was singing. I did seem to grasp the overall concept of the story fairly quick but I’m sure I missed a lot nuances and cleverness that come from a script written by Harvey Fierstein.

There’s very minimal “plot action” in the story until the second act. The entire first act focuses on developing the characters and allows the audience a look into the complex relationships between the main characters: George (Curt Denham) and Albin (Ray Mendonca). And of course, there is a lot of humor thrown in. The song, “Masculinity” was one of my favorites. By the end of the first act, I had fully connected with show, especially Albin. Mendonca’s performance in “I Am What I Am” was heartbreakingly beautiful — the best song of the evening. Song after song, scene after scene, Mendonca delivers his unique “Albin-isms” with charm and wit. He instantly became the heart of the show.

Robyn Trubuzi’s polished choreography twirled, kicked and tapped it’s way into the audience’s heart. Trubuzi showcased the cast’s talents in the best way possible featuring an awesome tap routine, some incredible jumps landing in the splits and a whole lot of twirling and kick-lines. It was varied, interesting and well-done. The likable dancing/singing Cagelles were a highlight throughout the show!

The costumes were absolutely drag-tastic throughout the entire production as they shined/glimmered/sparkled, especially in the opening number, “We Are What We Are”.

Overall, La Cage aux Folles is a huge crowd pleaser! Though it wasn’t a sold-out audience (by any means), they still absolutely loved it.

My first visit to La Cage aux Folles was a bit underwhelming, though I don’t place the blame on Broadway by the Bay – my expectations were through the roof! I think next time I’ll be a bit more prepared and I might just fall in love the musical that has taken Broadway by storm over and over again.

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