Article Title:Review: La Cage Aux Folles in Queenstown
Category:Performance
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:1st September 2013 - 11:55 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
NDHA link:http://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/ArcAggregator/arcView/frameView/IE24797504/http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/22/article_13899.php
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Story ID:13899
Text:Rutene Spooner as Albin/Zsa Zsa La Cage Aux Folles Book by Harvey Fierstein Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman Directed by Bryan Aitken for Showbiz Queenstown 1 - 7 September 2013, for Gay Ski Week. Time warp back to 1983. Throughout most of the world, even the so-called enlightened parts, homosexuals are criminalised, despised and ghettoised. The "gay disease" HIV is on the rampage and AIDS is a short life sentence for gay and bi men. Elton John, Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury and Liberace are all still in the closet. For any public figure such as a politician, clergyman, or high-ranking bureaucrat coming out is instant career suicide. Homosexuals are still sniggered about on TV shows and whispered about in families. And La Cage Aux Folles, the new Broadway musical based on the French play and film of the same name, is daring and risque in depicting two men loving each other despite everything. In lampooning homophobic politicians it is cutting edge social satire. 30 years into the future, in countries like the USA and New Zealand, the same show is on its way to becoming a period piece. Any production must now justify itself simply as a piece of entertainment. It must pull us in and transport us through the characters' predicaments with humanity, vitality, razzle dazzle, talent and a sense of fun. To keep us on side it must walk the fine line between farce and pathos. At tonight's opening night of Showbiz Queenstown's La Cage the mostly amateur and pro-am cast pretty much pulled it off. As Albin, aka drag star Zsa Zsa, who must erase himself from the life of the only son he has ever known ("Albin can be anything he likes so long as he isn't here!"), Rutene Spooner showed remarkable talent. Albin can easily be a caricature but Spooner goes deeper, especially in his pensive moments. His singing voice was strong and rich, his Zsa Zsa a real headliner and his Albin a wronged and trapped man we can empathise with. In the difficult role of the son, who we must somehow be convinced not to give up on even when he's being a selfish prat, Finley Brentwood did the acting part quite well and the singing part like a songbird. Barry Macdonald took hold of the archness and petulance of Jacob the butler/maid and stole scene after scene, as he should. As Albin's partner George, Alex Derbie was less strong, less vocally sure and this accentuates the significant age difference between the two lead performers. But his comic timing and understated skill with short sharp one-liners added much to this production. There were fine moments of pure talent in many of the lesser roles. Choreographer and dancer LeRoi Kippen dazzled, and when David Oakley, as the politician whose homo-hating ways trigger the whole plot, let rip in a mania of railing against 'perverts' La Cage almost felt topical again. The iconic 'John Wayne/spread your legs' scene was worth the spontaneous applause it got tonight; Jerry Herman's show-stopper I Am What I Am as performed by Albin/Spooner powerfully conveyed the quiet self-awareness and determination without which personal survival is sometimes impossible; and "Here's mother!" lost nothing for not being such a surprise any more. Director Bryan Aitken, a seasoned pro, drew gems of comedy and some quite powerful moments from many of the cast. He garnished the whole confection with a patina of glam, with everyone's performance talents and efforts being boosted by excellent staging and stunning costuming. Timed for Gay Ski Week, providing a relaxing and fun night out after a day on the Cardrona slopes or hooning down the Shotover, this La Cage is a fun romp of a show which deserves good audiences and is a credit to the performers and crew. - Jay Bennie Jay Bennie - 1st September 2013    
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