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La Cage Aux Folles ~ Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
June 14, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times

Brent Barrett (Georges) with Sam Brackley, Jay Westin, Isaiah Young, Ethan Kasnett, Darius Delk, Phil Young. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Brent Barrett (Georges) with Sam Brackley, Jay Westin, Isaiah Young, Ethan Kasnett, Darius Delk, Phil Young. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

 A marabou boa-filled extravaganza blew into town with Matthew Gardiner’s La Cage Aux Folles.  As glitzy as Vegas, as chi-chi as its French Riviera setting, and as campy and flamboyant as Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein intended, this six-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy hits all the right notes.  Director Gardiner doing double duty as choreographer, takes on the story of two gay men with a nightclub in Saint-Tropez, where, as we all know, anything goes.  At least that’s what Cole Porter taught us.

Georges, the straight-looking one (Is there an app for that?) and the club’s emcee, is played by Brent Barrett, who looks and sings like a young Robert Goulet.  His paramour and right-hand man/gal is Albin, stage name Zaza, whom actor Bobby Smith portrays like the metamorphic stages of a caterpillar to a butterfly and the killer instincts of a shark.

DJ Petrosino (Jacob) and Paul Scanlan (Jean-Michel). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

DJ Petrosino (Jacob) and Paul Scanlan (Jean-Michel). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Georges has a son, Jean-Michel (Paul Scanlan), the result of a quickie with a showgirl in a one-night-only heterosexual fling.  The problem is the dear boy wants to introduce his dewy-eyed fiancée, Anne (Jessica Lauren Ball) and her ultra-conservative parents to his father and jet-setting mother.  What ensues is a sort of gay version of Meet the Parents, with Georges, Albin and their snippy maid Jacob (DJ Petrosino).  “I thought I hired a butler!” quips Georges.  Keep your eyes on the hilarious Petrosino who is a first class scene stealer.

Bobby Smith (Albin). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Bobby Smith (Albin). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

It takes place within the confines of their first floor nightclub and second floor home, with an occasional stroll along the shore to reminisce.  Scenic Designer Lee Savage has upped the wow factor by giving us an insider’s view of the drag club’s green room.  Two dressing rooms bracket the stage and we become voyeurs to the cross-dressing performers, primping and preening in various stages of undress.

Ethan Kasnett (Chantal). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Ethan Kasnett (Chantal). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

But this show is not all show.  There are no lip-synching Diana Ross lookalikes in this line up of gender-bending chorines.  This is the real deal.  Hey, even Jesus makes an appearance, but I’ll keep the surprise.  No one here is, to borrow a phrase, ‘resting on pretty’.  Gardiner has cast some extraordinary performers with pipes that can go from alto to soprano in a New York minute, fantastic dance skills (Did he really? OMG to the full splits and high kicks) and GQ-worthy bodies too.  Big applause to the supporting cast of Les Cagelles: Sam Brackley, Darius R. Delk, Ethan Kasnett, Jay Westin, Isaiah W. Young and Phil Young.  How they transform themselves into glam divas is alone worth the price of admission!  Extra ‘chicken cutlets’ (gel inserts) all around.  And an additional hats off to Frank Labovitz’s over-the-top, ab fab, feathered and sequined costumes, and Anne Nesmith’s endless assortment of towering wigs.

But there’s a plot here too and notwithstanding the lights (kudos to Jason Lyons) and sound (hats off to Lane Elms) we are treated to one of the year-to-date’s best performances by Bobby Smith, in a tour de force portrayal of Albin, the headlining drag performer whose boundless love and sacrifice teaches us the ultimate truth of what “family” really means.

Highly recommended for its tender love story and comic relief in the midst of our turbulent times.

Through July 10th at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org.

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