DOUGLAS HODGE      DENIS LAWSON

STUART NEAL     TRACIE BENNETT     JASON PENNYCOOKE
PAULA WILCOX     IAN MITCHELL     ALICIA DAVIES

and the notorious and dangerous "Les Cagelles"
BEN BUNCE     DARREN CARNALL     NICHOLAS CUNNINGHAM
NOLAN FREDERICK    GARY MURPHY     DANE QUIXALL

THE BEST OF TIMES – Director Terry Johnson found the heart of this musical and gives us a highly emotional production that brings tears to the eyes (some of sadness, others of joy). The number “Song on the Sand” was never this touching and the way Dodge and Lawson played it’s simply terrific. I was never a big fan of “The Best of Times” number, with its almost forced clapping of hands, but here the number is played with tenderness and a real joy of living.

I don’t enjoy spoiling things to anyone who haven’t seen the show, but I have to mention the end of act one, because I think it has a touch of genius. This is a spoiler; you’re warned. After delivering a touching “I Am What I Am”, Zaza lives the stage by descending the steps that lead to the orchestra seats and then gets out through one of the exit doors, right into the street. I loved it!

WITH HODGE ON LAWSON’S ARM – When a musical have bigger than life characters, it needs the perfect actors to play the roles and this production is blessed with the presence of Douglas Hodge and Denis Lawson. The later is a veteran actor who returns to the musical, after years of absence from the genre. His Georges is a truly romantic man in love with his partner and he played it straight and with a delicious sense of humor.

As for Douglas Hodge, his Albin/Zaza is simply fantastic. He gives the role a deep touching side and he never plays it as a caricature. He has a motherly quality that fits perfectly into the role and, although his singing voice is not as strong as George Hearn’s or Gary Beach’s, he delivers his songs with such emotion that it’s impossible to not be touched by his performance. But he’s also a terrific comedian and in his hands the number “La Cage Aux Folles” was never this fun.

THEY ARE WHAT THEY ARE – Nolan Frederick, Nicholas Cunningham, Darren Carnal, Gary Murphy, Dane Quixall and Ben Bunce are the delightful “Les Cagelles” of this CAGE. All of them are terrific dancers and every time they are on stage it becomes lively, colorful and bright. Unlike what happened on the recent Broadway revival (I only saw parts of it), this Cagelles aren’t very feminine; they look like amazing big men in drag and don’t take themselves seriously. Douglas Hodge is the heart of this production, but this Cagelles are the soul.

Choreographer Lynne Page had a full day with the Cagelles numbers and the result is funny, contagious and never serious. To be real to the spirit of the story, this Cagelles couldn’t be the best dancers in the world (like I said before, the actors playing them are terrific dancers) and Page was able to catch that idea and allowed them to be completely crazy on stage.

FINALE- It’s been a long time since I felt so moved on a theatre and I gladly shared a tear or two with this fabulous cast. In the end there’s a really love kiss between the leads and it makes all the difference. I’m sure Jerry Herman loves this intimate version of his big Broadway musical and his joyful score never sounded so good and real.

A great show and one of the best I’ve ever seen on stage. Don’t miss it!

Music and Lyrics by JERRY HERMAN

Book by HARVEY FIERSTEIN      Based on the play by JEAN POIRET

Choreography by LYNNE PAGE     Directed by TERRY JOHNSON

Photos © Alistair Muir

Rated by Jorge: +++++