"La Cage Aux Folles" at Out Front Theatre Company, October 24, 2019 - November 9, 2019
Since the site is not allowing the posting of reviews in its normal place, my reviews are going to the forum
Title: Bangles and Spangles and Fluff, Oh My!
Out Front Theatre’s "La Cage Aux Folles" continues its tradition of musicals with fabulous costumes by Jay Reynolds and little else to recommend them. Josh Oberlander’s scenic design is serviceable, but nothing more. There’s a low platform across the back of the playing area with a giant painting of a contorted flamingo (why??) above it. Downstage of it there’s an opening flanked by elegant fabric and surrounded by a makeshift arc of lights. The opening is closed at times by pulling a curtain across it that looks for all the world like a giant bedsheet. The proscenium curtains are used as the curtains for the nightclub where much of the action takes place. Set pieces are brought on and taken off by the cast as needed to suggest various locations.
One location has the street sign "Rue du Mer." If this is intended to be the French for "Street of the Sea," it should be "Rue de la Mer." While the action is supposedly taking place in France, the French spoken for the most part is pretty miserable. Even Paul Conroy’s curtain speech pronounces the title less like "La Cage Aux Folles" and more like "La Cage Awful" (which perhaps is an unintentional warning of what is to come).
M. Kathryn Allen’s sound design is good, balancing Nick Silvestri’s band with the vocals so all can be heard (aside from asides thrown in by the ensemble). In Charles Swift’s lighting design, though, there are often areas of dimness onstage, hampering the view at times. Of course, with Jordan Keyon Moncrief’s pedestrian choreography that often lacks precision in its execution, it’s the costumes one wants to see more than the movement. Even so, the choreography highlights the all-male ensemble’s ability to do splits and high kicks. (The original production’s mix of male and female ensemble members has been jettisoned to amp up the gay quotient of the production.)
As music director, Nick Silvestri may not have had a lot of vocal talent to work with. Only Tony Hayes as Georges (egregiously omitted from the alphabetical cast list) and Marcie Millard as Marie Dindon really impress with their solo vocals. Ensemble numbers generally come across better. Clint Clark-Duke, in the role of Albin/Zaza, seemed to have vocal difficulties at the performance I attended, and (like Aaron Schilling as Jean-Michel) he often seemed a tad flat on reaching for his big notes. Mr. Clark-Duke has a lovely falsetto, but it was used only briefly in one number; otherwise, he was belting, and straining at it.
As director, Paul Conroy seems to have let his cast develop their own characters. As a result, there’s a disjointed feel to the production. The ensemble cuts up in their post-show scenes, throwing in ad libs that go nowhere. Joe Arnotti is the ultimate scene-stealer as transvestite butler Jacob, and seems to have been given free rein to goose up the action at every opportunity. His performance is lots of fun, but could have used some judicious pruning by a skilled director. Only ultimate pro Marcie Millard seems to have mastered the art of garnering laughs with truthful, character-driven reactions.
The central relationship of transvestite Albin and his partner Georges is problematic in that Mr. Hayes appears to be significantly older than Mr. Clark-Duke, although the script specifies he is younger, and their height and physique dissimilarity seems odd. Paradoxically, their most effective scene is in the number "Masculinity," in which Albin tries to act butch. Mr. Clark-Duke makes Albin more bitchy than insecure, so it’s hard to see him as more than a camp character.
The cast is overwhelmingly male, containing only three females. Ms. Millard, as always, is terrific. Melanie Sheahan, as Jean-Michel’s fiancée Anne, does a lovely job, but has very little to do. Vallea E. Woodbury, as Jacqueline, does not have the oversized presence to make her role work. The males are pretty evenly matched, with none of them giving a truly professional performance throughout. Tony Hayes, who comes closest, does well in his audience banter as emcee at the nightclub, but seems to be phoning in his performance at other times, as if left high and dry by his director.
Paul Conroy hasn’t created a thoroughly satisfying production of "La Cage Aux Folles." Major points, like disguised characters sneaking off in the finale to avoid a mob of reporters and photographers, come across as flat. The production falls prey to the drag queen mentality that dressing a man as a woman is entertainment in and of itself. "La Cage Aux Folles" needs to be more than a drag parade, but in Out Front’s production it fails in almost every other respect.