The cast of Trinity Rep's production of "La Cage aux Folles" Source: Mark Turek/Trinity Rep

Review: A Triumphant 'La Cage aux Folles' Closes Out the Season at Trinity Rep

Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Closing the 60th year season at Trinity Repertory Company is "La Cage aux Folles," which started as a play in 1973 by Jean Poiret, was made into a French comedy film in 1978, and eventually made its way to Broadway in 1983 as a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein ("Torch Song Trilogy") and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman ("Hello Dolly!"). It's a story that most modern audiences will know from a later film, "The Birdcage" (1996), which, as the play and original film did, centers on a gay couple whose heterosexual son is planning to marry into a very conservative family.

Hilarity ensues when the two very different worlds clash: Georges (Stephen Thorne, flamboyant and fun) and his longtime partner, Albin (C. Mingo Long, making a very splashy debut at TRC), learn that their son, Jean-Michel (an adorable Michael Jennings Mahoney, who is clearly enjoying this meaty role), is marrying the daughter of a very conservative politician, Dindon (Dereks Thomas, last seen in "Fences"). The problem is, Jean-Michel doesn't want Dindon to know about his ultra-liberal origins; he hasn't even told his bride-to-be, Anne (Kayla Shimizu, another debut here), and it is agreed that Albin shall not participate in the 20-hour visit from the politician and his wife, M. Dondon (Jenna Lea Scott).

Stephen Thorne as Georges and C. Mingo Long as Albin in Trinity Rep's production of "La Cage aux Folles"
Source: Mark Turek/Trinity Rep

Albin is the star of Georges nightclub as drag performer Zaza, and Jean-Michel correctly assumes that Dindon wouldn't understand men in dresses, let alone a gay nightclub filled with debauchery. Even as they try to transform Zaza into "Uncle Al," it's evident that the charade will not work. But when Jean-Michel's biological mother cannot attend the weekend in question, it's Zaza to the rescue; all goes swimmingly as they enjoy a dinner at Jacqueline's (the fabulous Rachel Warren) restaurant until she's asked to perform a number, and the wig literally comes off. Director and Choreographer Taavon Gamble assembles a cast very much up to the challenge of the play's unique brand of humor and dance numbers, of which there are many.

Not only do the best moments come from Long as Zaza, who takes charge of "I Am What I Am" in a truly emotionally charged fashion, but both Dylan Michael Bowden, as Francis, and Augusto Guardado, as Chantal, nearly steal every scene they're in. Special appreciation for Janie E. Howland's scenic design, which evokes the nightclub scene of a bygone era and which is spectacularly highlighted by lighting designer Erica Lauren Maholmes.

Gamble knows his audience well, and each scene is a visual and auditory feast; one cannot help but get caught up in the flashy, fabulous fun of "La Cage aux Folles."

"La Cage aux Folles" continues through June 30 at Trinity Rep. For tickets and more information, follow this link.

by Will Demers

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