WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: New Wimbledon Theatre
WHEN: 15/3 (matinee), runs until 18/3 and then on UK tour until 26/8
Hard to believe, perhaps, that this is the first UK tour this classic 1983 musical, which won six Tonys, has embarked on.
- Read on for reasons including why star John Partridge may not be the Albin you’re expecting
‘It’s not panto!’ shouts an audience member during the first act in which star John Partridge (see below, who we last saw in the West End in A Chorus Line) speaks in a Mancunian accent and interacts with the audience in a friendly/provocative way we weren’t expecting.
He’s playing Albin, the drag queen lover of impresario Georges (the impressive Adrian Zmed, see below), whose son Jean-Michel plans to marry and brings his girlfriend and her parents, including a right-wing politician who wants to close down clubs like the one Georges runs, the titular La Cage Aux Folles, to visit.
A timely reminder then of hard-won freedom in the face of political opposition which means this UK tour couldn’t have come at a better time.
Partridge is our third Albin (after Graham Norton and John Barrowman at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End in 2009) and we were bowled over by him.
His fine singing voice and dancing agility were never in doubt but he handled the comedy and sensitivity of this role with great aplomb. We’ve never seen Albin interact with the audience so much and it was entirely in keeping with the setting (a club performance) and enhanced the show no end.
The cross-dressing troupe of dancers come into their own during the title song, Partridge has a wow moment with the show’s big hit I Am What I Am (see above) but we’d forgotten how life-affirming and joyous the rest of the score is and it is this which continues to make this musical such a must-see.