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La Cage: Heart-warming beneath the glitter

W!ld Rice staged a localised version of La Cage Aux Folles, and combined flamboyance with homeliness, making this a heart-warming musical to watch. -AsiaOne
Natalie Lim

Mon, Jul 23, 2012

It was a heart-warming night full of bright lights, feathers and glitter confetti at La Cage Aux Folles. W!ld Rice Productions took the Tony-acclaimed musical from the streets of St. Tropez and set it in the more familiar Tanjong Pagar, French phrases for Hokkien, and kopitams for cafes.

The musical tells the story of a couple, George (Tony Eusoff) and Albin (Ivan Heng), owners of popular drag cabaret La Cage where Albin headlines as the fabulous Zaza. George's son Jonathan (Aaron Khaled) makes a surprise announcement that he is getting married to Anne (Seong Hui Xuan), the daughter of ultra-conservative politician, C. K. Tan (Darius Tan). Wanting Anne's parents to approve of their marriage, Jonathan wants Albin to hide all traces of his unorthodox lifestyle - including "Zaza" - from the Tans.

I was curious to see how a story from the 70s with overt gay themes would be adapted to be relevant for the modern, more liberal Singapore society. La Cage managed to take the audience into their flamboyant colourful world.

The 13-member troupe of "showgirls" called the Cagelles (only four cast are female) got the audience to clap along for some routines. Zaza made a few jibes at recent high profile news as part of her act. It seemed like we were there in La Cage the nightclub or dining at Chez Jacqueline, rather than watching the play.

I had expected a flamboyant story about homosexuality, and I was surprised that while that was a key thread throughout the musical, it didn't stand out significantly. What stood out instead were family, filial piety and acceptance - themes that would resonate with all audience. La Cage makes you rethink about the sacrifices parents make for a child and accepting people for who they are - feather boas and all.

Tugging at the heartstrings is Ivan Heng's portrayal of Albin from aging cabaret star Zaza to long-suffering mother. While he does not possess the vocal prowess one would expect from a diva, he makes up for it with the acting chops to bring the colourful character to life as an endearing drama queen with a hint of a Peranakan matriarch.

Tony Eusoff is charming as George with his soothing voice and thin moustache reminiscent of classic film actors Errol Flynn and Clarke Gable. Aaron Khaled and Seong Hui Xuan were also a delight to watch with melodious voices (not to mention good looking).

While a thrill to watch, the Cagelles were often messy during dance numbers, and the finale item was probably their best. Still, they added a bit of comic flavour during the backstage scenes as diva wannabes.

The most memorable character had to be Hossan Leong's butler-who-prefers-to-be-a-maid Jacob. His silly over-the-top theatrics matched his mistress Zaza's adding much loved comic elements.

While the home sets were a tad plain, I loved the flashy cabaret sets and the replica of a Singapore street with old shophouses and coffeeshop. La Cage manages to combine the flamboyance with homeliness, making this a heart-warming musical to watch.

Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Date: July 20 to Aug 4
Prices: $35-$125 (excluding SISTIC charge)

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