Review by J. A. Di Bello
FORESTBURGH, NY (August 15, 2014) – Opening night of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s energetic romp, “La Cage aux Folles” at the Forestburgh Playhouse is a production that solidifies the Forestburgh tradition of excellence. Its extraordinary cast blends episodes of laughter, love and loyalty with memorable music and sentimental moments.
Scenic designer Germán Cárdenas-Alaminos greets the evening’s audience with a closed curtain, setting the location by exposing two nightclub-type tables, each located on the apron down stage right and down stage left, thus enticing the audience to be a part of an attractive and enjoyable experience. And enjoyable it is under the creative hand of Music Director for the play and Conductor for the evening Trevor Pierce. Amazingly, this is Trevor’s first summer at the Playhouse. His addition has contributed noticeably to the quality and professionalism of Forestburgh productions, not only on the main stage but in the extraordinary quality of his of accompaniments in this season’s Cabaret.
Recognition is downstage center for Costume Designer Mark Sorensen as feather boas and high-heels become the order of the day, transforming the theatre at Forestburgh into a nightclub in the forest
The circumstances and sequence of events that cause this story’s developing conflict are initially superficial. Georges, masterfully portrayed by James Patterson, is the owner of a nightclub full of transvestite performers known as Les Cagelles. The club’s popular show is headlined by his partner, Albin, known on stage as Zaza, a drag queen and the club’s star performer. The demanding role of Albin/Zaza is cleverly polished by Trent Blanton, an accomplished, award-winning artist.
Enter stage right, the circumstance of complication, Jean-Michel. He is brought to life by a clever, accomplished Alex Drost, as the mature grown-up son of Georges. It seems Jean-Michel is engaged to be married to a delightful and attractive Anne, played with prestigious demeanor by Missy Marion. He wishes to invite his fiancée’s parents to his home, for the expressed purpose of meeting his family. His loyalty to the man who played a major part in his upbringing, loving him as much or even more than a natural parent, wears thin as he plots to have Albin “disappear” for the duration of the visit. His guests, the up-tight parents of his fiancée, Edouard Dindon and Marie Dindon, are ultra conservative and frown on (as in go ballistic) homosexual relationships. Each is of Anne’s parents is perfectly played with great endurance and fun by Steve Davis and Lori James, respectively.
Witty dialogue complete with double entendres and comic relief in the form of Jacob, José Luaces, Albin’s nimble butler, who prefers to be called “maid,” provide scene after scene of hilarity, punctuated by complicated dance routines performed by Les Cagelles and the Ensemble. Caleb Funk as Hanna and Nathanial Riccio as Clo Clo, as members of the highly talented Les Cagelles, easily summon laughter as they complete their routines. In the ensemble, it difficult to pass the talents of Kerstin Anderson, and Abby Sierakowski and Kyle Kempt without complementary notice of their achievements and contributions to the production.
There is little dispute regarding Trent Blanton’s ability to carry the show as Albin/ZaZa. Most affecting and beautiful is his delivery of the show’s anthem, “I am what I am.” The song is one of several sentimental moments caused by Jean-Michel’s lack of loyalty. He wounds Albin. The sentiment and point of the production lies in the lyrics, “Life’s not worth a damn, ‘Til you can say, “Hey world, I am what I am.”’
To further recognize the accolades due Mr. Blanton is to note his ability to hold the stage and carry the weight of this musical’s frequently poignant message. Events in theatre have a way of accumulating and forcing resolution and such are the circumstances that occur at the nightclub. The significance of “The Best of Times,” as forcefully presented by Albin, Jacqueline and Company” carries through to the audience and in to reality:
So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
La Cage Aux Folles plays at the Forestburgh Playhouse through Sunday, August 24. Box Office 845-794-1194 or www.fbplayhouse.org