Howard Steven Frydman
Goodspeed Opera House Presents “La Cage Aux Folles”
I am sad- but in a good way- I liken it to the sadness one gets at seeing the last remnants of an ice cream cone wane, once in hand, moments later gone, yet the taste, memories and sticky fingers lingers. This sadness I equate with what is known as “Summer-itis” – you know- that sense that this three month Equinox is simply fading too fast and you better squeeze in all the delights of summer while you can. What is a Summer delight you ask my friend? The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam is a singular one – She is “The” Grand Dame of Summer – musical theater at its best with wondrous productions within that will cause you to take pause and share as a special delight of the Summer of ’15. In fact, on my most recent visit I must state what lies inside can best be described as Frisky, Glittery and full of Jazz-hot Divine Fun- the three tier hallmarks of any good show!
As they say “it’s a Gay old time” on the sizzling hot stage of the Goodspeed Opera House as they present the bigger than life- “La Cage Aux Folles” – (Birds of a feather). With a book by Harvey Fierstein (Edna Turnblad in Hairspray) and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, the production focuses on a gay couple – Georges, (portrayed by James Lloyd Reynolds) the Master of Ceremonies of the Saint-Tropez nightclub, “La Cage Aux Folles” featuring drag entertainment by the chorus line known as Les Cagelles, and starring Georges “wife” Albin, (portrayed by Jamison Stern) as the “queen” of the La Cage aux Folles – affectionately known as “Zaza” as the star attraction. Similar to an episode of “Father Knows Best”, Georges and Albin have led an idyllic life together in the well-heeled apartment above the nightclub with their saucy “maid” Jacob, but the Jimmy Choos literally hit the fan when Georges’s son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée Anne and her ultra-conservative parents, whose father is the leader of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party, to meet them. The original 1983 Broadway production received nine nominations for Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book for Harvey Fierstein.
Those familiar with the musical know that Act One ends with Albin singing the triumphant
“I Am What I Am”- to the rousing applause of an appreciative Goodspeed audience. And here is where I take note of two observances during intermission- one: it is hard put not to hear overeager couples throughout the theater trying to figure out if all of the chorus-girls in d.r.a.g are really girls – I personally think all but one but I could be wrong. The second observance, that I wholeheartedly agree with, is that Cedric Leiba, Jr. who portrays Maid/Butler Jacob- steals this production in a literal handbag! Folks are looking through their programs to find details about this young actor and discuss his wickedly commanding presence on stage. Cedric’s comedic timing is a “fab-blast” to be seen, and this rising “star” is not to be missed. I also send kudos to the remarkable Jamison Stern for his stellar performance as Albin- he reminded me of a young Dame Edna Everage- yes “hello Possums”! Additionally I want to mention the incredible work of the Les Cagelles dancers- (Nic Thompson, Michael Bullard, Nick Silverio, Alex Cruz, Alex Ringer, Darius Barnes and Erin M. Kerion – I swear Erin HAS to be a girl!!) – great job all- I still don’t know how you can wear all that “full” makeup on a hot summer day- and lastly of course, our good friend, Rob Ruggiero, for directing this wonderfully emotional, sentimental and oh so charming production. As stated please make a sojourn to the Goodspeed for a very special summer memory. Enjoy!!
La Cage aux Folles will run June 26 through September 10th, 2015. Curtain times are Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select performances at 2:00 p.m.), Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (with select performances at 6:30 p.m.).
Tickets are available through the Box Office (860.873.8668), open seven days a week, or on-line at goodspeed.org.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96.