B. Michael Howard, Summer Lyric's adept director, has scored a triumph with his eye-popping, rib-tickling, euphoniously delightful production of the 1984 Tony Award-winning La Cage aux Folles, the Gay-themed musical comedy written by openly Gay bookwriter Harvey Fierstein and AIDS-afflicted Jerry Herman, whose music and lyrics, in the right hands, sends this show into the stratosphere.
With his second production of this now-classic work of American musical theatre, Mr. Howard and his army of accomplices created theatre magic - and history - and soared into outer space.
All systems were definitely "go" as this thoroughbred production blasted off the launching pad precisely at 8pm and held its giddy audience in thrall for its entire running time. Indeed, people did not want to leave the theatre after the bravos and standing ovation - they were as hyped as the adrenaline-infused cast who had just given the performance of their lives. What an experience!
In case you don't know the story, which first saw the light of day in a 1978 French flick of the same name which was Americanized in 1996 as The Birdcage starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, it concerns the owner of a Gay Riviera cabaret (La Cage aux Folles) named Georges (Richard Hutton) and his drag star lover Albin (Kris Shaw), whose drag name is ZaZa, in their attempt to impress Georges' son's fiancee, and her prudish (think Christian Coalition) parents through their impersonation of a straight married couple.
Even though the show is now 14 years old, its theme of compassion and inclusion is au courant. In 1984 we had Reagan ignoring the AIDS epidemic and blaming it on Gays which has given us our current culture war waged by right wing extremists. This show, in the right hands, absolutely galvanizes an audience - which was the experience of Mr. Howard's latest endeavor.
Of course Mr. Howard did not do it alone. If he succeeded in casting perfection, his colleagues, Musical Director and Conductor Pamela Legendre (and her expert orchestra), Choreographer Alton Geno (and his drag-dressed Cagelles), Scenic Designer Rick Paul (and his Art Nouveau cartoon scenery), Lighting Designer Michael Batt, Costume Designer Elizabeth Parent (and her endless array of Erte-inspired creations) and Linda and Don Guillot's wigs and makeup, followed their avuncular leader and also attained perfection in professional collaboration.
The cast, all Broadway quality: the above mentioned Richard Hutton and Kris Shaw (absolutely believable as a Gay couple), Kasey Marino as the son (who is moving to Houston - our loss, Texas' gain), his fiance, Anne, Casey Thompson, Ken Risch as her hypocritical father, Emily Wiltz McLain as the mother, Janet Shea as Jacqueline, the restauranteur who unmasks the hypocrite, James St. Juniors, Jr. as Jacob, the nelly butler who desires to be a maid (and adds immeasurably to the hilarity), the Cagelles: Greg Bonin, Larry Gibas, Mike Gomborone, Danielle Harrell, Kelly Hirling, Glenn Rainey, Patrick Thomassey, Jessica Tierney and Lyle Guidroz (who not only pirouetted across the stage en pointe but also caused a collective groan as he did a leaping split in the can can number), and Juan Williams, Walter Bost, Renee Balencie Saussaye, Marc Fouchi and RuthAnn Wild.
All are to be commended.