Opera House Players, Broadbrook, CT
through May 20, 2012
by Walter Haggerty
From “Little Women” to “La Cage aux Folles” in one season is quite a stretch for any theatre group, but the Opera House Players have pulled it off with great style. The talent and versatility of this exceptional collection of theatre lovers is extraordinary. The word “challenge” must be engraved on their mantra.
When Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein turned the film “La Cage aux Folles” into a Broadway musical in 1983, they created a blockbuster. This troupe has done no less. Every song is given its full-out, rousing delivery by soloists and the spectacular chorus line of “Les Cagelles.” (There are more feathers flying over the Opera House stage than anyone will find in most aviaries).
As to those soloists' songs, the performances are superb. As George, Chad Shipley is solid and sensitive, particularly with “Song on the Sand,” and with Luis Manzi as Albin, a touching “With You On My Arm.” As great as Manzi is with “A Little More Mascara,” his shattering delivery of “I Am What I Am” captures every ounce of anger, frustration, and hurt that is packed into that anthem. It is a triumph!
David Lopes, as Jean-Michel, does full justice to “Anne On My Arm,” as well as to a from-the-heart “Look Over There.” Jacob/Claudine as the butler/maid, or whomever or whatever, goes well “over-the-top” in Keith Leonhardt’s extravagant performance – and the audience loves every minute of it. Kiernan (Cone) Rushford as Anne is appealing and charming. Her parents, played by Harry and Sudie Evageliou, are suitably stiff and serious.
With Jerry Herman’s unerring talent for building show-stoppers, step-by-step, “La Cage” has an ample supply. From the opener, “We Are What We Are,” to the title song and the incomparable, “The Best of Times,” there are plenty of opportunities to cheer.
As director, Sharon FitzHenry deserves highest praise for an ensemble performance that has just the right touch to let the love and heart of the story shine through. The choreography of Kristen Shaw and tap choreography of Leonhardt, are perfection – a term, in fact, that should be applied to the entire production.