Review: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES dazzles at Trinity Rep

Trinity Rep's brillant production of the hit musical celebrates drag on the mainstage

By: Jun. 09, 2024
Review: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES dazzles at Trinity Rep
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As legend goes, when LA CAGE AUX FOLLES first appeared on Broadway in 1983, it was derided for “mainstreaming homosexuality for mass consumption.” With spectacular joy, a big heart, and ever-so-many sequins, Trinity Rep’s current production of the musical transforms this stinging critique — which, vexingly, still has teeth in 2024 — into a ringing compliment. 

It’s the 1970s in Saint-Tropez when Georges (Stephen Thorne) — who owns a nightclub featuring drag entertainers — gets a surprise visit from his son, Jean-Michel (Michael Jennings Mahoney). The occasion? He’s getting married and has invited his bride-to-be (Anne, played by Kayla Shimizu) and her parents to the home that Georges shares with his longtime partner and star performer, Albin (C. Mingo Long). The catch? His fiancée’s father, Edouard Dindon (Dereks Thomas) is a politician of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party, whose platform is hostile to homosexuality in general, and drag in particular. The ask? For Georges to pose as a straight retired diplomat at the dinner, and for Albin — who has raised Jean-Michel as his own since he was a toddler, but whose feminine gender presentation will be harder to hide — to disappear entirely.

Review: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES dazzles at Trinity Rep
Augusto Guardado as Chantal, Stephen Ursprung as Bitelle, Kevin Patrick Martin as Hanna, and Alexander Crespo-Rosario II as Phaedra. All photos by Mark Turek.

It’s far from heartening that, half a century later, this premise still feels so keenly relevant. But that parallel is part of the poignancy of Trinity’s production. Directed dazzlingly by Taavon Gamble, it’s a loud, proud, and defiantly joyful celebration of what it means to be unapologetically who you are, even when some would try to silence you.

The show’s cast unwaveringly commits to this vision. As Georges’s quintet of regular performers — collectively referred to as “Les Cagelles” —  Alexander Crespo-Rosario II, Augusto Guardado, Alex LeBlanc, Kevin Patrick Martin, and Stephen Ursprung quite literally set the stage, bringing charm, precision, and infectious energy to their musical numbers, each performed from the nightclub stage. Brad Reinking is a scene-stealer as Albin and Georges’s cheeky housekeeper, Jacob, and Rachael Warren — whose voice is as magical as when I first heard it in her Trinity debut as Eliza Doolittle over two decades ago — also shines as Jacqueline, a club regular who owns the hottest restaurant in town. 

Stephen Thorne as Georgees and C. Mingo Long as Albin. Photo: Mark Turek
Stephen Thorne as Georges and C. Mingo Long as Albin. All photos: Mark Turek

But the play's heart beats most loudly with Georges and Albin, whose decades-long love is the final triumph over the Dindons of the world. In his Trinity debut, Long dazzles: as Albin, he slides seamlessly between humor, heart, and deep vulnerability, and as Zaza — Albin’s drag persona — he transmutes these qualities into arresting, unbridled musical performances. If Zaza is a star, Albin’s heart is what makes her shine, and Long captures it all with skill and grace. Stephen Thorne gives a characteristically winning performance as Georges: torn between wanting to honor his son’s callous request and the hurt that request causes Albin, Georges makes mistakes. But Thorne’s nuanced portrayal makes us more than willing to forgive him.

Even as LA CAGE’s story of bigoted politics — and the personal tolls they exact — still rings dispiritingly true, its radiant celebration of love and gender in its many expressions shows us another possibility — one where a mainstage spotlight illuminates each of our true, unbridled selves, like so many beams of hope. Shine on, and brightly. 

Trinity Rep’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES runs through June 30 at 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI. Remaining tickets are limited and start at $24. They are available online at and via phone at 401-351-4242.


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