Saturday, April 02, 2011

After SPIDERMOOSE: TURN OFF THE VOLUME it was time for something with a little bit more heart... and we had just the show. Who could turn down the chance of seeing The Queen of Broadway Harvey Fierstein as 'Zaza' in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES?

Harvey won a Tony Award for the LA CAGE book in 1983 and he is now the right age to play Albin, the temperamental diva of the Riviera so when Douglas Hodge left the production at the start of the year, Harvey was the most obvious choice to take over the role.

The night we went he was on his third 'Georges', as 'twhere. He started his run with Jeffrey Tambor who then pulled out sharpish due to a back injury which *ahem* seemed to affect his singing voice. He has since been replaced by Christopher Sieber but he was off on our night so we saw the understudy Chris Hoch.

I am presuming that being so partnered was the reason that Harvey was a trifle, um, unstoppable. As he rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out for the nth time, it suddenly occurred to me that he was reminding me of Harpo Marx! Showboating apart, Harvey gave us a larger-than-life performance, a real star turn and his rendition of "I Am What I Am" was wonderfully touching and heartfelt.I must say I also thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Chris Hoch as 'Georges'. Usually cast as Francis the stage manager, Hoch had a brief run as 'Georges' in the hiatus between Tambor and Sieber and he gave a charmingly urbane performance, holding his own against the Fierstein fireworks without really pulling the focus, well done that Hoch!

I'm not sure where it happened - in the journey across the Atlantic or during it's near-year long run at the Longacre Theatre - but Terry Johnson's production has broadened more than somewhat and has lost some of it's Menier/Playhouse charm.

A prime example of this was shown in the performance of Wilson Jermaine Heredia as the camp butler Jacob. Heredia (the original Angel in RENT) was so busy signaling that his lines were funny that the last thing you felt like doing was laughing. Oddly enough the tricky male ingenue role of Georges' son Jean-Michel, which I had not seen done well here, was effortlessly played by A.J. Shively.The comedian Mike McShane as Deputy Dindon was oddly muted but I enjoyed the glamorous performance of Christine Andreas as Jacqueline the restaurateur.

Les Cagelles were as watchable as ever but I felt again, that the personality and characterful line-up from London had been replaced by the more hard-faced professionalism of the Broadway stage.One of the 'broadening' elements however does work - we were greeted at the door by a chatty 'hostess' who popped up again sitting on the stage as a warm-up for the show, chatting and insulting with the audience. She was great fun and an interesting addition to the production.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES marks the third time we have followed a show from the Menier to Broadway: previous shows have been SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE at Studio 54 and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at the Walter Kerr (which is across the road from the Longacre spookily enough!) - I wonder if there will be a fourth?

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