A luscious 'La Cage'

Famed musical comes to HART
By Mary Ann Enloe | Jul 09, 2012
Photo by: Ron Frendreis "La Cage aux Folles" features drag queens, giddy songs and dances aplenty. The show continues its run for the next three weekends at HART.

HART's "La Cage aux Folles" garnered the longest standing ovation in recent HART history at Friday's opening night performance before a full house.

"Did you ever think we'd be doing this in Haywood County?" asked HART executive director and director of "La Cage" Steven Lloyd after the show, as a happy audience filed into the lobby. Compliments peppered Lloyd from every direction.

Jerry Herman's music and lyrics and Harvey Fienstein's book keep re-inventing themselves. Derived from a French play about a gay couple who operate a gender-bending night club, "La Cage" first emerged on Broadway in 1983 to win a Tony as best musical, and then won two more — in 2005 and again in 2010 as best revival.

In theater, men have dressed as women for centuries. Local civic clubs used to stage "womanless weddings" as fundraisers where everybody from mayors to ministers donned their wives' cocktail dresses, borrowed wigs from Main Street department stores and had audiences rolling in the aisles as they tottered toward the stage in too-small high heels.

"La Cage" is not your daddy's womanless wedding. It's a slick, well-staged and well-acted production in which you won't realize that Bryan Nicholls is the whip-wielding Hanna unless he's told you. If you know Oliver Marth's mother, you'll recognize Oliver. Otherwise, he'll be just another pretty chorus girl.

Nicholls' mother Marilyn supports her son's exceptional theatrical endeavors and said at intermission, "Can you believe this? He never talked much about rehearsals except how hard it was to dance in heels. I didn't know what to expect, but they're all wonderful."

And they are.  Rod Leigh nails the part of George, who is a sort of "straight man" (no pun intended) to his over-the-top companion Albin, who performs in their club as ZaZa. The show-stopping role is played to perfection by Eric Martinez, a professional actor/singer originally from Albuquerque. Martinez is making his HART debut.

For those who didn't see the film "The Birdcage," a non-musical treatment of the same book, the story is simple. Albin has helped George raise his biological son and they've forged a happy, healthy family. The son, Jean Michel, played ably by HART newcomer James Hendley, announces he's marrying the daughter of a conservative politician whose family is insisting that they meet his family.  That's when the fun begins.

The cast is large. Not only do they act well, they can all sing. At least two hardy songs have remained popular through the years — "I am who I am" and "The Best of Times." The full-cast production number of the latter had the audience clapping and singing along.

Once again, Lloyd's uncanny ability to match actors to roles makes for top-notch theater.

Dan Dutterer's Jacob could have been a scene stealer, except everybody in it is a scene stealer. From the smallest walk-ons to the leads, roles are played to perfection.

Before each show Lloyd comes to center stage to make a few brief remarks, and Friday night he had this to say: "I said I'd never do this show. I'm glad I was wrong. We're now going to go where few men have gone before."

Friday night's audience loved it. Go with the idea that you'll be entertained, and you will love it too.

“La Cage Aux Folles” continues its run at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, July 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 and at 3 p.m. Sundays, July 15, 22 and 29. All shows are at HART, 250 Pigeon St., Waynesville. For tickets, call 456-6322 (from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday) or visit www.harttheater.com.

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