AU ABROAD

Theatre Review: La Cage Aux Folles - Melbourne Arts Centre (Performances until December 7th)

The socialites of Melbourne were out in force for the opening of musical extravaganza La Cage Aux Folles on Saturday night. Having seen the film adaptation The Birdcage several times, I was very excited to see how the characters would be portrayed on stage.

Before walking into the theatre guests were treated to champagne and canapés as they mingled and conversed in audible hums. We eventually made our way inside, found our seats and were at once enchanted by the scantily clad transvestites teetering around on stage.

As the show commenced and the dancers lured us in with their synced high kicks and sassy sashays, we are introduced to the character of Georges played by Simon Burke, the homosexual owner of drag nightclub La Cage Aux Folles. His partner Alban aka ZaZa played by Todd McKenney is the star of the show and is the definition of diva. Their housekeeper Jacob played by Aljin Abella encapsulates the audience each time he teeters on stage. His comedic repertoire and delivery is pure perfection and his character quickly becomes the crowd favourite, receiving applause after applause after each delivery. Georges’ son Jean-Michel played by Robert Tripolino is charming and youthful with an impressive vocal talent, and Edouard Dindon played by Gary Sweet is great as the pompous conservative right wing politician. Rhonda Burchmore proves she still has what it takes to wow an audience with her portrayal of restaurant owner Jacqueline, and proves she still has the legs to pull of a spangly mini skirt.

Todd McKenney was without a doubt the showstopper of the night. His exuberance, charisma and flamboyant enthusiasm in the role of Alban is commendable, and his personable nature makes him extremely likeable. Orchestra Victoria were flawless in their delivery and were conducted by the supremely talented Mathew Frank. The choreography throughout was lively and innovative and at times a bit cheeky (pun intended), with dancers baring their bottoms for some raunchy routines.

The set was kept simple with the same props used constructively to create different scenes, and the cast was kept small with some characters playing multiple roles. The costumes were extravagant with glitter and sequins adorning silks and satins with a multitude of elaborately styled wigs. Whilst the show itself didn’t always flow perfectly and a few first night jitters were evident, overall the cast was solid and the laughs flowed freely. A highlight for me was when Todd McKenney was addressing the crowd as ZaZa and he broke out of character to say that he could see his mother in the audience, then went on to make fun of Black Rock before commenting that we were suppose to be on the French Riviera!

It was a pleasure to gain some familiarity with the original musical version of a much loved film. McKenney and Burke’s singing abilities really set the show apart, and the heart warming numbers seemed to incite much applause from the audience. Abella was a breath of fresh air and i’m sure we will see great things from him in the future. If you are after a light hearted giggle and enjoy the decadence of a drag show or two, then La Cage Aux Folles is the show for you. Best enjoyed with a jovial disposition, playful attitude and an open mind.

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Performances continue until December 7th. The reviewer attended the performance on the 22nd of November. For tickets and more details head to: http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/musicals/la-cage-aux-folles