By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: Saturday 11 March (matinee), runs through 23 April 2023 RUNTIME: 180 minutes (with a 20-minute interval)
We take our 4th row seats and notice steps leading down from the stage into the centre aisle and a terrifying fear about being invited onstage and interrogated in a language that is not native to us grips us.
- Read on for reasons including how this Zaza – director Àngel Llàcer – compares with others we have seen including Graham Norton, John Barrowman and John Partridge
We made our West End debut in Cinderella at the Trafalgar Studios alongside Baga Chipz in 2019 and so it is that towards the close of Act 1 that Àngel Llàcer’s drag queen Zaza descends the stairs and eyes the front rows – as we avert our gaze.
We wondered whether this might happen as we booked our tickets pre-show and a man seats away from us on the aisle in row 2 features prominently in Act 2 during several scenes in skits reminiscent of the beloved Saturday night BBC1 gameshow The Generation Game.
A woman dressed in overalls and 4 men are encouraged on stage by the drag dancers and what follows is a simple onstage mickey-take by Zaza and then a light-hearted competition in which the audience members are asked to copy a routine by a dancer, the finale being 1 which ends in the splits.
The schtick is occasionally a little uncomfortable and the female audience member appears to react sensitively to the joke about her ‘factory’ outfit and there is a little light-hearted face slapping which the Spanish-speaking member of our party said was a little uncomfortable.
La Cage Aux Folles is a musical based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret which tells the story of a gay couple, Georges, the manager of a Saint Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, its star, whose stage name is Zaza.
Georges’ son Jean Michel visits with news that he is to marry the daughter of an ultra-Conservative MP and farce ensues when this defender of the most traditional values in family life visits with mother and daughter.
The 1983 musical was written by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein and won 11 Tonys and 2 Oliviers across several revivals. It was the 1st hit Broadway musical centred on a gay relationship. Our Zazas have included John Partridge (New Wimbledon Theatre, 2017), Graham Norton and John Barrowman (both Playhouse Theatre).
Last year we saw A Chorus Line at this theatre and Company also in Barcelona and the sets invariably are of a standard 1 might have seen in the West End a decade or so ago. But the real draw here is Llàcer who gives us both the outrageous showmanship but also the vulnerability of Zaza. Armando Pita as Georges is also light on his feet and skilled in conveying the sensitivity with which his partner and star have to be managed.
It’s a testament to how strong the musical is that even with our limited Spanish we can appreciate the comedy and gentle ribbing Llàcer is drawing from the understudies Alexandre Ars and Ricky Mata who this afternoon are playing Jean Michel and Albin’s assistant Jacob.
In fact, the show is advertised as running for 150 minutes but this audience gets more than its money’s worth as it does so for more than half an hour longer with less than an hour at its close before it is due to run again for the evening’s performance.
What this production does well is climax with a rousing Best Of Times with tickertape in the shape of butterflies (see below), or mariposas in Spanish, falling from the heavens onto the audience. ‘Mariposa’ used to be a derogatory word for a homosexual in Spain and so it is a small touch but a welcome one.
I Am What I Am is the song you may be most familiar with from La Cage and it is a moment of defiance from a gay man used to compromise for others.
We see this show as Gary Lineker’s tweet about giving voice to those without it and this musical’s themes about standing up to ultra Conservatism have never felt more relevant.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre stage a new version of La Cage this summer. Tickets
- Main picture via Facebook courtesy Teatre Tivoli Tickets
- Have you seen a Barcelona show before and what did you think of this 1? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
- Enjoyed this review? Follow monstagigz on Twitter @NeilDurham, email firstname.lastname@example.org and check us out on Instagram and Facebook