La Cage Aux Folles | Quirky ProductionsLeft – David Rogers Smith. Cover – John O'May and David Rogers Smith. Photos - Emily McCoy

The evolution of La Cage Aux Folles began in the 70s as a French farce written for the stage. This became an international film hit, which led Jerry Herman (Music and Lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (Book) to see the potential for a Broadway musical. The musical became a hit, which in turn led to a film remake of the the original story – The Birdcage, which starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Most audience members will be aware of at least one of these versions.

In essence, the story centres around a gay couple Georges and Albin, and their son Jean-Michel, now 24 years old and ready to get married. Georges and Albin run a nightclub in colourful St Tropez, where Albin appears as Zaza, the star of the revue.    

The problem arises when Jean-Michel's potential in-laws decide to meet his 'parents'. Madness, mayhem, lots of sequins and a butler who really wants to be a French maid, collide in an evening that will change everyone.

While this is the superficial storyline, underneath all this is a wise tale about morality, family values and loving others (or yourself) for who they are.     

A few years ago Quirky Productions produced the successful Zanna Don't at Chapel off Chapel. This time they have decided to go bigger and bolder – with mixed success.

Possibly suffering from less rehearsal time than the show deserves, the production and some performances had a few problems to deal with on opening night.

While minor glitches in some scene changes can be excused, the problem with the sound from the Cagelles cannot. If you are attempting to produce a large scale musical in a medium sized theatre, you really have to ensure that everyone is miked accordingly, and can be heard. While I had no problem hearing the principals, I could barely make out what any of the Cagelles were saying at any given time.      

The best performances on the night were from John O'May as Georges and newcomer Reece Budin as Jean-Michael. Both managed to sing and act their roles with gusto.

David Rogers-Smith played the challenging Albin/Zaza with great enthusiasm and used his lovely singing voice to wondrous effect, especially in the defiant anthem I Am What I Am, but was not able to develop the nuances and complexity of the 'leading lady', and often looked awkward, moving unglamourously in various costumes. The production team should have given this much greater attention.   

All of the cast (a mix of professional and non-professional) performed enthusiastically, but at times one felt that tighter direction and staging could have made this a much more memorable production. Hopefully some of these things will sort themselves out over the next few performances.

The orchestra, under Musical Direcor Kirk Skinner and led by Hamish Paterson, sounded terrific.

Quirky Productions presents
book by Harvey Fierstein | lyrics & music by Jerry Herman

Venue: National Theatre | 20 Carlisle St (cnr Barkly St) St Kilda, VIC
Dates: March 16 – 24, 2012

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