Bristol Hippodrome theatre review: La Cage aux Folles

Vivienne Kennedy reviews La Cage aux Folles, visiting Bristol Hippodrome until 27 May as part of its first ever UK tour

Bill Kenwright’s new production of the multi award-winning musical La Cage aux Folles, the first to tour the UK, is truly spectacular and last night provided the perfect escapism from what had been a pretty terrible day news-wise.

Written by Jerry Herman (music & lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book) and directed by Martin Connor, La Cage aux Folles (literally, the cage of mad women) is based on a 1973 French play by Jean Poiret. It tells the story of Georges and his partner Albin, the manager and star attraction of a Saint Tropez nightclub famous for its drag entertainment, and of the adventures that take place when Georges’s son Jean-Michel brings home his future bride and her parents, a politician who wants to close down clubs like La Cage and his downtrodden wife (who gets one of the most heartfelt rounds of applause of the night when she eventually stands up to her spouse).

I believe it was considered pretty shocking stuff when it premiered on Broadway in 1983 and three years later in the West End. Not so much now when most of us are fully accepting of relationships in whatever form they take and when families with two mums or two dads are not seen as remarkable. Today it’s a rather beautiful story of love and family values, how thoughtlessness can sometimes result in us hurting those we love (and who love us) the most and how easily they forgive us.

It’s a visually stunning show, due largely to designer Gary McCann’s truly fabulous sets and costumes, with gorgeous song and dance routines (choreography by Bill Deamer) and a story that makes you laugh and (almost) cry. Led by John Partridge, Adrian Zmed and Marti Webb as Albin, Georges, and their restaurateur friend Jacqueline, the cast were perfect. I always enjoy a show more if the cast look to be enjoying themselves, and this lot seem to be having a ball!

Highlights included the show’s most well-known song, I Am What I Am, sung by Albin as the Act One finale; The Best of Times, performed by Albin, Jacqueline and Company; and Look Over There, sung first by Georges and later reprised by Jean-Michel (Dougie Carter), but I enjoyed every moment and it more than deserved the rapturous applause and very natural standing ovation received as the cast took their final bows.

If you love musical theatre and can cope with ear worms and leg envy – a special mention here for Samson Ajewole who plays Georges and Albin’s cross-dressing butler/maid Jacob and who has legs up to here (picture my hand held around seven feet in the air) – then do try to get tickets for La Cage aux Folles before it leaves Bristol Hippodrome at the end of the week; it ticks every box.

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Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

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