BWW Review: Skylight's Glittering LA CAGE AUX FOLLES Lavishes Joie de Vivre for Family
What defines a family--those people who love by sacrificing their own life for someone else? In a lavish production where Chris March's luscious costumes touch the senses, Skylight Music Theater stages the 1983 Broadway musical La Cage Aux Folles. Scenic Designer Liliana Duque Piñeiro complements March's fabulous costumes by hanging a serpentine curtain of reflective silver strips across the stage that sparkles when Lighting Designer Noele Stollmack illuminates the fluid curtain with a rainbow of colors throughout the production Originally written by Harvey Fierstein with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, this musical based on a French play by Jean Poirot, won multiple awards in its production year and also in several later revivals.
Underscoring this visual feast for the eyes and soul, Skylight's La Cage features beloved Milwaukee actors Ray Jivoff and Norman Moses in the roles of the same-sex couple at the heart of the production: Albin, Jivoff, and Georges, Moses. Georges manages a St. Tropez nightclub and stars Albin playing Zaza, a drag star extraordinaire. The phenomenal production emphasizes "a little guts and lots of glitter" to the delight of the audience.
Jivoff and Moses create a certain coupled affection born of longevity, in their theater life and on stage, necessary for the audience to believe in their long term relationship and the family they created. Thee two men raised Georges son, Jean-Michel, when his mother walked away. Now, in his twenties, Jean-Michel decides to marry a girl whose parents abide by a strict moral code incompatible with Albin and Georges lifestyle. In this role, Colte Julian walks that fine line as a son appreciating his upbringing, however unusual, yet desires to win over his fiancé's family before they marry. These two men realize they "can't keep children in a cage," and "that each person radiates their own special persona" whether they're wearing bouffant wigs, boas and stilettos or a tuxedo and black pants, despite what gender the person might profess to be.
While the two stars Jivoff and Moses center the La Cage production, Albin's maid or butler, however the character dresses for a particular scene, Shawn Holmes focuses a distinct and humorous addition. Holmes captures Jean-Michel's distress, and later Albin's when he is asked to be absent when Jean-Michel's fiancé arrives.
The supporting cast carries these themes of family and transitional gender throughout the show... An especially talented group of Cagelles, seven male dancers, wears March's glamorous costumes, fitted ostrich or peacock feathers and flamingo sleeves, while dancing to Director John de los Santos' choreography. Combined with an equally accomplished ensemble and seven piece orchestra, this creative team truly glitters all night long. One especially inspiring and rousing scene features Jivoff's Albin dressed and trying to impersonate Jean Michel's birth mother Sybil, at Jacqueline's restaurant (a chic Rhonda Rae Busch stars as Jacqueline) when both sets of parents meet for the first time. Music and dancing embody the joie d'vivre of the entire production, the season, and ultimately life.
Underneath all La Cage's glitz, these parents, Albin and Georges, and those sitting in the audience, realize children are unable to be caged at any time, most certainly as they leave nest. Parents raise them to be released into their own worlds, soaring on a parent's love, their unique personas contemplating separate lives with other loved ones while still respecting the parents who raised them. Families only have very few moments to share as time moves forward and children grow up and beyond that small parent's world.
Family, after all, becomes the people who surround each other with kindness, love and respect at any age-La Cage Aus Folles's sings this through perfect notes and lines with a gutsy humor to entertain and enlighten Milwaukee through the holiday season. Somehow this very personal love story transcends gender preferences and needs to be told again and again 30 years later.
Throughly revel in Skylight's lavish production, and then as the lyrics suggest --"look over there to somebody who cares"--perhaps someone sitting in the next seat, waiting at home, or looking forward to a phone call. Someone who puts themselves last because true families, whatever their gender, how near or how far, whether they dress in jeans or jewels, celebrate each other from the heart and soul. This year at the Skylight, celebrate life and love through the season and well into the new year. En joyeux compagnie, Bonne année!
In joyous company for a Happy New Year, the Skylight Music Theatre presents La Cage Aux Folles in the Cabot Theatre at the Historic Third Ward's Broadway Theatre Center. For special events, performance schedule or to order tickets, please call: 414.291.7800 or www.skylightmusictheatre.org.