Spotlight: La Cage aux Folles

If Dick Cheney and his daughter Mary starred in a musical...

At the onset of La Cage aux Folles everything is going swimmingly for Georges (Steven J. Meerdink) and Albin (Kevin Hansen). They've enjoyed a harmonious 20-year relationship, and they live in San Tropez where Albin is the star of their own little gender-bending drag cabaret. What could be nicer? Trouble intrudes when their son Jean Michel (Shaun Nathan Baer) comes home with news that he's engaged to be married, and that his beloved's father is an influential homophobic politician (that part is a stretch, I know, but bear with me). What follows is a featherweight, if fun, misadventure about smokescreens, illusions, and the advantages to accepting ourselves for what we are. This Minneapolis Musical Theatre production captures the air of winking decadence behind this eight-time Tony winner by Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book). (It's adapted from a French stage play that also served as the source material for the movie The Birdcage.) The evening is an exercise in duality. The dramatic scenes are largely leaden and lifeless (with the exception of the interplay between Meerdink and Hansen). And the bare set and minimal props don't do much to dress things up. When the music starts, though, the excitement level rises in a hurry. The seven-piece band is sharp and dynamic, and the cast's singing ranges from good to excellent. Likewise, Meerdink's choreography is visually witty, and brings great glee to the big numbers that feature Albin's Les Cagelles showgirls. (No awards will be given for correctly separating the kicking women from the men--though it is a good game.) Hansen is a blast throughout, delivering both a quick humor and a sense of his character's understated need to be loved. (This is the only thing, it should be mentioned, that Albin is understated about). While I frequently experienced the dramatic passages as something to be endured until the next song began, the catchiness of the tunes and the assurance of their performance tended to make it worth the wait.

 
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