Mu­sic, mes­sage carry ‘La Cage aux Folles’

Strong cast adds verve to well-trav­eled tale of love and ac­cep­tance

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - ON STAGE - By Chris­tine Dolen

“La Cage aux Folles” is se­quinbe­decked cat­nip to South Florida the­aters. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre pro­duced it in 2010; Boca Ra­ton’s Wick Theatre, 2015. Now, another Palm Beach County-based theater com­pany, MNM Pro­duc­tions, is of­fer­ing its take on “La Cage” in its home at the Kravis Cen­ter’s Rinker Play­house.

The show’s en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity is un­der­stand­able. Based on a 1973 French play (made into a movie in 1978), the 1983 mu­si­cal is by Tony Award-win­ning com­poser-lyri­cist Jerry Her­man (whose long list of cred­its in­cludes “Hello, Dolly!” and “Mame”) and has a book by Tony win­ner Har­vey Fier­stein (who also wrote the books for “Newsies” and “Kinky Boots”).

The orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion won the 1984 best mu­si­cal Tony Award, and re­vivals in 2004 and 2010 both took the Tony as best mu­si­cal re­vival (mak­ing “La Cage” the only mu­si­cal to score that tri­fecta).

Her­man’s score, which in­cludes the rous­ing an­them “I Am What I Am” as well as the joy­ous “The Best of Times” and the ten­der “Song on the Sand,” is among his best. The mes­sage of re­spect for the en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ship of the cen­tral cou­ple, night­club owner Ge­orges and his drag diva part­ner Al­bin, is a com­pelling one, par­ticu- larly in this era of push­back against the gains achieved through the long strug­gle for gay rights. Be­sides, who doesn’t love a beau­ti­ful cho­rus boy in se­quins, feathers and full drag hair and makeup?

Di­rec­tor-chore­og­ra­pher Kim­berly Dawn Smith, who staged MNM’s suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tions of “Hair” and “Spa­malot” at the Rinker, is again at the helm, with Paul Reekie as mu­si­cal di­rec­tor and leader of the seven-piece band. The set, with its many lev­els and steps, is noth­ing to write home about, nor are the rented cos­tumes, though Ja­son To­mash­eski’s light­ing bathes the stage in vi­brant color for the night­club scenes. Reekie, the mu­si­cians and the show’s singing ac­tors, how­ever, are bet­ter than their sur­round­ings.

The sit­u­a­tion in “La Cage,” should you have some­how never seen the show or “The Bird­cage” (the set-in-South Beach movie re­make), is that Ge­orges (Larry Alexan­der) and Al­bin (Michael Ur­sua) are fac­ing a fam­ily cri­sis.

Jean-Michel (Clay Cart­land), The Sound of Mu­sic Through Oct. 22. Broward Au-Rene, 201SW Fifth Ave., Fort Laud­erdale. 954-462-0222, broward­cen­ter.org. 8 p.m. Tues­day-Satur­day; 2 p.m. Satur­day, Wed­nes­day; 1, 6:30 p.m. Sun­day. $35.25-$140.25. Tarzan The Stage Mu­si­cal Opens 7: 30 p.m. Thurs­day. Broward Amaturo, 201SW Fifth Ave., Fort Laud­erdale. 954-462-0222, broward­cen­ter.org. $47-$60. Tick­ling the Ivories Mu­si­cal, opens to­day. Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sam­ple Road, Mar­gate. 954-344-7765, stage­doorfl.org. 8 p.m. Fri­day, Satur­day; 2 p.m. Satur­day, Sun­day, Wed­nes­day. $48. ‘Til Death DoUsPart…You First With co­me­dian Peter Fo­gel. Mizner Park Cul­tural Cen­ter, 201Plaza Real, Boca Ra­ton. 844-672-2849, mizn­er­park­cul­tur­al­cen­ter.com. 7:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day. $32-$45. the son they raised to­gether af­ter Ge­orges had a one-night het­ero­sex­ual stand, has be­come en­gaged to Anne Din­don (Kimmi John­son), the girl of his dreams. Just one prob­lem: Her politi­cian fa­ther Edouard (Troy Stan­ley) is a be­yond-con­ser­va­tive fam­ily-val­ues cru­sader. Jean-Michel cor­rectly as­sumes that the Din­dons wouldn’t ap­pre­ci­ate his par­ents’ un­con­ven­tional life­style. But he makes the mis­take of ask­ing that Al­bin van­ish dur­ing their visit, lead­ing to painful, poignant lessons learned.

Al­bin, who per­forms as a drag diva named Zaza, is the show’s plum role, and Ur­sua makes the most of it. He sings beau­ti­fully, nails Zaza’s de­mand­ing tem­per­a­ment, and gets all the phys­i­cal com­edy of Al­bin’s fu­tile at­tempts to butch up. His turn as JeanMichel’s “mother” is as­sured and funny, and his vo­cal chem­istry with Alexan­der’s hand­some Ge­orges makes for some lovely duet mo­ments.

Some ac­tors play Ge­orges as a more con­ven­tional/tra­di­tional guy, the bet­ter to con­trast him with Al­bin. But Alexan­der’s Ge­orges has wel­come grace notes of mis­chief and play­ful wit.

The most flam­boy­ant role in “La Cage” is Ja­cob (Eli­jah Word), the but­ler and as­pir­ing per­former who serves Al­bin and Ge­orges but in­sists they re­fer to him as their maid Clau­dine. Ja­cob may not have the ca­reer he wants — not yet — but he has a drag diva’s sass down cold. A string­bean who tow­ers over ev­ery­one in his high heels, Word makes Diana Ross seem non­de­script. The Vag­ina Mono­logues 8 p.m. Fri­day at Aven­tura Arts & Cul­tural Cen­ter, 3385 NE188th St. $35-$45. 877-311-7469, aven­tu­ra­cen­ter.org. 8 p.m. Satur­day, 2 & 7 p.m. Sun­day at Boca Black Box, 8221 Glades Road, Boca Ra­ton. $35-$45. 561483-9036, bo­ca­black­box.com. White Boy Drama; con­tains nu­dity, strong lan­guage. Em­pire Stage, 1140 N. Fla­gler Drive, Fort Laud­erdale. 954-678-1496, em­pirestage.com. 8 p.m. Fri­day, Satur­day, Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day; 5 p.m. Sun­day. $35-$50.

Aca­demic

Play­wright Vanessa Gar­cia Theatre Lab read­ing. FAU’s Par­lia­ment Hall, 777 Glades Road, Boca Ra­ton. 800-745-3000, fauevents.com. 7:30 p.m. Fri­day. $20.

Com­mu­nity La Cage aux Folles

Where: Kravis Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, 701 Okee­chobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. When: Through Oct. 22. Show­times are 7:30 p.m. Tues­day-Satur­day and 1:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day and Satur­day-Sun­day. Cost: $45. Con­tact:

Cart­land brings some phys­i­cal verve to Jean-Michel and sings a touch­ing trib­ute to Al­bin in the reprise of “Look Over There.” John­son ra­di­ates whole­some­ness as Anne and, even­tu­ally, the re­solve she needs to stand up to her blus­ter­ing fa­ther and ea­ger-to-please mother, Marie (Patti Gard­ner). Aaron Bower is ev­ery inch the chic, clever beauty as Jacque­line, and Pierre Tan­nous is a low-key hoot as Fran­cis, the stage man­ager whose ro­mance with the fierce Hanna (Alex Jorth) is in­creas­ingly haz­ardous to his phys­i­cal well-be­ing.

The show’s six cho­rus Cag­elles are played by four men (Jorth, Frank Vomero, AJ Cola, Kea­gan Tan­ner) and two women (Christie Rohr and Ash­ley Ru­bin). They’re gen­er­ally decked out sim­i­larly (or iden­ti­cally), and part of the fun of “La Cage” is guess­ing the per­form­ers’ gen­der, which gets tougher if you’re sit­ting to­ward the back.

“La Cage aux Folles” is a won­der­fully en­ter­tain­ing show with a strong score and an even stronger mes­sage. MNM’s pro­duc­tion al­lows both the mu­sic and mes­sage to be sa­vored. The Amorous Am­bas­sador Through Oct. 22. Del­ray Beach Play­house, 950 NW Ninth St. 561-272-1281, Ext. 5, Del­rayBeachPlay­house.org. 8 p.m. Thurs­daySatur­day; 2 p.m. Satur­day, Sun­day.$15, $30. Bye, Bye Birdie Opens Satur­day. Lake Worth Play­house, 713 Lake Ave. 561-5866410, lake­worth­play­house.org. 8 p.m. Thurs­day-Satur­day; 2 p.m. Satur­day, Sun­day $29-$38. Nav Durga Jayadevi Arts at Lauder­hill Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, 3800 NW11th Pl. 954-777-2055, lpacfl.com. 6 p.m. Sun­day. $9-$29. You MadeMeLoveYou! The Story of Al John­son, Amer­ica’s First Mu­si­cal “Su­per­star”’ Opens Mon­day Del­ray Beach Play­house, 950 NWNinth St. 561272-1281, Ext. 5, Del­rayBeachPlay­house.org. 8 p.m. Mon­day-Wed­nes­day

MATTHEW BUENO/MB PHOTO STYLES/COUR­TESY

Larry Alexan­der, Aaron Bower and Michael Ur­sua in “La Cage aux Folles” at the Kravis Cen­ter’s Rinker Play­house.

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