Review: La Cage Aux Folles at the Birmingham Hippodrome

On paper it sounds like camp on a bike, but La Cage Aux Folles is that rarest of all things – a truly human drama celebrating the transcendence of the human spirit complete with love, laughter, and that extra magical ingredient, a fairy-tale happy ending.

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles

If you don’t know the plot, Georges is the owner of a South of France cabaret night club La Cage Aux Folles whose speciality is, well, drag, but up the glamorous end, not like Roy Barraclough and Les Dawson – although, on the other hand…

John Partridge is sublime as Albin, full time cross-dresser and partner of night club owner Georges (the droll Adrian Zmed). He’s the star of the La Cage Aux Folles cabaret, and his idea of daywear is an ensemble straight (sorry) from the more extravagant couturiers of the Rue de la Paix.

It’s not going to spoil the slender plot if I tell you the trouble begins when Albin’s son (yes) announces he is planning to marry. No problem, except that his proposed father-in-law is a far right politician who makes Le Pen look like a lily-livered liberal, so the plan is to try and butch, or at least straighten Albin up a bit for the big day.

And here we have the heart of the show, because John Partridge’s Albin is simply marvellous, making him an irrepressibly funny drag queen whose idea of dressing down is to add a picture hat and elbow gloves to complete any ensemble. And in a masterstroke of direction, he’s given a working class Manchester accent as broad as the River Irwell hinting at a much less-glamorous past bringing the whole story a lot nearer to home.

La Cage then reveals itself as an endearingly charming diamante mix of high-kicking antics, glamour on the old-fashioned scale, marvellous principal performances, and a tale with a massive heart. So what’s not to like?

Special mention must go to Samson Ajewole as the black maid/butler with an even more extreme dress sense than his employer – his yellow velvet footman’s outfit is jaw-dropping – and to the truly marvellous ‘girls’ of the corps du cabaret, precision-drilled to a turn.

This is a high-octane hit with a heart, life-enhancing, laugh-out-loud funny with clap-along songs and plenty of proof that, in the words of its anthem, life’s not worth a damn until you can say, I am what I am.

I loved it, in fact I’d be happy to see it again tonight.

La Cage Aux Folles runs at the Hippodrome until Saturday (May 27). For tickets phone the box office on 0844 338 5000 or visit birminghamhippodrome.com.

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