Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 20, 2024

Review: Barrington Stage Company, “La Cage aux Folles”

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
June 11-July 6, 2024
by Shera Cohen

Father’s Day was the perfect date to see “La Cage aux Folles”. The heart of “La Cage” is love, sacrifice, and trust; all qualities of the best of dads.

Yes, it’s glitzy, bold, funny, and charming. BSC has, again, created an exceptional season opener musical in their 30th year.

Central characters Georges and Albin, long-time married, are still in love with each other and with life. The characters are self-described near-opposites – one gay and the other a drag-queen. To their world on a cabaret stage in Saint-Tropez, France, they are the epitome of family. To outsiders, not the case. This musical’s question might be, “Who set the rules”?

Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Tom Story (Georges) and Alex Michaels (Albin aka ZaZa) give equally balanced
performances; Story emphasizes his acting talents with vocals secondary (“Look Over There”), and Michaels the reverse. Although Michaels exceedingly dramatic skills punctuate his songs with either pizazz or heartbreak. The latter, likely featured on the list of Top 10 Emotionally Powered Songs, is “I Am What I Am”. 

Central to the plot is Georges’ son Jean Michel (an accident that happened 20+ years ago) and his engagement to a girl. Yes, a girl. The actors in this straight family have little to do, which is probably why each (except mom) is rather stiff. 

Perhaps equal in emphasis, importance, and stage-time are Les Cagelles; the shocking, motley, and hysterically dressed and quaffed 10 drag-queen dancers/singers featured in the cabaret show within the play. Choreographer Paul McGill is obviously having fun, which is delightfully imparted to the audience, at the same time never forgetting precision. 

Kudos to costumer Rodrigo Munoz Benjamin Weigel, make-up artist Kyle Krueger, and the backstage, quick-changing dressers.

The audience cheers and laughs through the cabaret numbers, yet a suggestion would be some snips and tugs to save 10-15 minutes. Leave them wanting more. That said, some individual scenes are “must saves”; the acrobatics of the solo dancer in the elevated birdcage, and the macho grunts of the Village People.

One sign of a talented director is that no one notices the direction. Mike Donahue has done his homework and sets his large cast exactly where and when everyone should be.

The same theory essentially holds true for the orchestra of eight. The audience is oblivious to its professionalism.

“La Cage” clocks in at over two and a half hours (includes intermission). Yet, at no point did the production drag (pardon the pun). Success can be giving the audience what they want, or don’t know what they want until they see it.

Composer/lyricist Jerry Herman, of “Mame” and “Hello, Dolly” fame, in many ways replicates his own formula, lead-character exuberance, and plot. 

BSC’s opening show audience held back nothing. The matinee patrons whooped & hollered, laughed & shouted accolades throughout the performance. No shock that the musical’s end received an instant full house standing ovation.