Timely, sweeter revival

Actor Ivan Heng (background, centre) reprises the role of Albin/Zaza in La Cage Aux Folles.
Actor Ivan Heng (background, centre) reprises the role of Albin/Zaza in La Cage Aux Folles.PHOTO: ALBERT LIM K.S.

Wild Rice's La Cage Aux Folles is a slick production with a heartwarming tale at its heart

REVIEW / THEATRE

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

Wild Rice

Victoria Theatre/Last Friday

Wild Rice's revival of La Cage Aux Folles is sweeter, more sparkly and strikes closer to home than it did five years ago.

  • BOOK IT / LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

  • WHERE: Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place

    WHEN: Till May 13, 8pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 3pm (Saturdays and Sundays)

    ADMISSION: $60 to $120 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: Recommended for those aged 16 and older (some homosexual content)

Ivan Heng reprises the role of Albin, whose alter-ego Zaza is the glittering headliner at the nightclub La Cage, run by his life partner George (a melodious Sean Ghazi).

Their happy bubble is punctured when their son Jonathan (Aaron Khaled) falls in love with the daughter of a conservative politician.

Jonathan wants to pretend Albin had no part in raising him and he insists on bringing back his long- absent biological mother to show his family is just like any other.

Footlights and gloriously feathered frou-frou costumes (by Frederick Lee) give way to sober suits and living-room farce as Albin tries to put on a macho act to please his son. What finally saves the day, though, is his own over-the-top self.

When Wild Rice and director Glen Goei first put a Singaporean spin on this musical by Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book), the spangled spectacular won over viewers with dialogue in dialect and Heng's wonderfully fussy take on Albin.

Again, Heng's double act as a Peranakan hen at home who turns into bright bird of paradise at night nearly steals the show.

This time, he is evenly matched by strong performances from the rest of the ensemble. Stand-outs include Ghazi's dapper, contained George; Hossan Leong as the flamboyant assistant Leslie; and the deliciously versatile Darius Tan and Jo Tan, who play both the married couple who run the local coffee shop and the anti-gay politician and his alcoholic wife.

Wild Rice has made musicals look easy for years through its well- received Christmas pantomimes.

With several other groups putting on new and old song spectacles this year, it is obvious by contrast just how hard it must have been to put together an ensemble that can harmonise (music director Elaine Chan), pull off demanding choreography (Lisa Keegan) and segue from glittering stage to intimate drama on the family sofa (set design by Eucien Chia).

Victoria Theatre is the perfect size for this show, allowing Heng and the cast to speak directly to the audience as though viewers are seated within the club shown on stage.

And the show has much to say in these times when minds and hearts around the world are closing instead of becoming more open and accepting of the other.

Slick, tight and heart-warming, La Cage Aux Folles is heartrending on closer look.

True love is in danger of being dismissed, whether it is the love between two people devoted to each other for 25 years or the love a parent has for a child he did not sire yet chose to raise.

Jonathan's desire to sideline Albin in favour of an absent biological mother cuts to the quick. The loveless relationship between politician and wife versus that between the couple running the coffee shop and the ties binding Albin and George beg viewers to rethink the definition of family.

Because this is a musical, true love wins the day and Jonathan's eyes are opened.

If only the real world could be so easily reshaped with glamour, camp and a funny, family-friendly night out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'Timely, sweeter revival'. Print Edition | Subscribe