Review: La Cage Aux Folles - the perfect distraction

PUBLISHED: 14:48 24 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:48 24 May 2017

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles

Archant

They say that laughter is the best medicine and this theory was put to the ultimate test last night at the Bristol Hippodrome.

La Cage Aux Folles (Picture: Pamela Raith)La Cage Aux Folles (Picture: Pamela Raith)

The last thing I felt like doing after two days of devastating news of another national evil atrocity, as well as one caused to my own family, was driving for almost an hour for a trip to the theatre but I am so glad I made the effort for La Cage Aux Folles on its opening night.

The piece of froth show bubbled over with glitz and glamour and the humour, coupled with the heart-warming story of family love was just the tonic I needed and worked far better than any medication I could have been prescribed.

This is the debut UK tour of the Tony and Olivier award-winning La Cage Aux Folles, written by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman, and based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret and presented by Bill Kenwright.

It follows the story of Georges, the manager of a Saint Tropez nightclub, and his partner, Albin, a drag artiste and the club’s star attraction.

La Cage Aux Folles (Picture: Pamela Raith)La Cage Aux Folles (Picture: Pamela Raith)

They live an idyllic existence in the south of France but the diamante-studded silk stage curtains could soon crash down around their ears when Georges’ son Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a notorious right-wing politician determined to close down the local colourful night-life.

Drama and hilarity ensue when a meeting of the parents forces them to cover up their vibrant lifestyle. Will Albin be able to play the role of his life to ensure that Jean-Michel can marry his love?

I know it has become a bit of a theatrical cliché but Eastenders star John Partridge truly did steal the show with his performance of ͚Albin, the headline drag act Zaza at the club – a part which he seemed born to play. His exuberance and obvious joy at playing Zaza shone throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show. His Northern drawl floors the preconception of what you expect the immaculately-made up and flamboyantly-costumed drag queen to sound like and he exuded a down-to-earth warmth which really drew the audience to him.

There is a scene where he talks to the band and audience members as if he were really the compere of the show which made the audience, who after an initial reticence to get involved, absolutely fall in love with him and thus are rooting for his character for the rest of the night. An amazing talent for which he received a very well-earned standing ovation come the end. His drag act was clearly based on watching old routines of Danny La Rue and perhaps Lily Savage, with facial expressions so brilliant you couldn’t help but grin from ear-to-ear at him. And you would never know from watching him playing the loveable Christian Clarke in the popular BBC soap that he is hiding such an incredible, boomingly-powerful voice which seemed to shake the foundations of the Bristol theatre.

La Cage Aux Folles (Picture: Pamela Raith)La Cage Aux Folles (Picture: Pamela Raith)

I was looking forward to seeing my old heartthrob, Adrian Zmed, who co-starred with William Shatner as Officer Vince Romano in the 1980s’ TV show T.J. Hooker, as nightclub owner Georges, and I was pleased to see him make the transformation to stage from screen with great aplomb. He may have struggled to hold some of the higher notes for the required length of time but my heart melted to see the obvious affection his character has for his partner, which is testament to some fine acting and I totally bought into their long and blissful, if a little tempestuous, relationship.

Credit must be given to West End veteran and singing legend Marti Webb, who plays Jacqueline, the couple’s friend and owner of the local restaurant Chez Jacqueline, scene of one of the most memorable and mesmerising parts of the show. And also to the hilarious antics of Jacob, the couple’s housemaid and would-be showgirl, played expertly by Samson Ajewole, whose legs seem to go on forever and would be the envy of most women!

However, apart from Partridge, the undoubted stars of the show were the spell-binding club dancers. Every high kick and feather boa swish was performed to an amazing standard and would not be out of place in any high-class entertainment venue in Las Vegas. They were so believable as beautiful and glamorous chorus line ladies that I was convinced some of them were female – especially doing the splits with such high energy – but no, they are all men!

The show-stopping score, including The Best of Times, Song on the Sand and the anthemic I Am What I Am, left me feeling there is still a lot of good in the world after all. And this is a throroughly good show which unwittingly turned out to be just the medicine I needed.

La Cage Aux Folles will be at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, with performances including matinees.

Tickets, priced £21-52.90, are available from www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome or 08448 713012.

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