Tag Archives: Carl Mullaney

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre


La Cage Aux Folles

“Stephen Mear’s choreography dazzles and blinds you”


We live in an age where the word ‘gender’ can spark hot debate and a furious character count on people’s twitter (sorry – ‘x’) feed. Indeed, gender discourse has changed greatly since “La Cage Aux Folles” opened on Broadway four decades ago, at the time breaking many barriers by becoming the first Broadway musical centred on a same sex relationship. So much so that Tim Sheader’s current staging lays itself open to accusations of being dated. And yet, the production rebuffs all of that and rises way above it. There is no question of discussion, or of dissecting its relevance and resonance today. It is simply a celebration. One that is bursting with pure joy and spectacle – full of hope and other sentiments that belong to the human heart irrespective of the rhythm it beats to.

From the overture to the finale, we are drawn into the world of these larger-than-life characters. We are told from the off, by the deliciously diverse and garish troupe of ‘Cagelles’, that “what we are is an illusion”. Illusion or not, they are magical. As is every other aspect of this authentic, feel-good show that, deep down, honours old fashioned and revered values of loyalty, family, solidarity and acceptance. It is only in retrospect that this analysis becomes clear – at the time we are just swept along by the warm tide of music and dance.

Set in 1970s St Tropez, it is more ‘Prom, Prom, Prom!’ than French Riviera. Colin Richmond’s eye-catching set captures a fading grandeur that stands proud against the evening backdrop but when you get up close you see the peeling walls and mildew, reflecting the by-gone era and authenticity that refuses to be glossed over. Pan out again and Stephen Mear’s choreography dazzles and blinds you. The ensemble is ever present, watching from the wings; smoking, laughing, winking or yawning. But when they emerge and take centre stage their dance moves are fearless, faultless and simply stunning.


“The laughter and the pathos are continually battling to steal the limelight, but they end up in a glorious double act”


Jerry Herman’s score is at once recognisable and stylishly fresh. The intellect isn’t overburdened, but the passion and romance are loud and clear. As the first act closes, we almost feel like we have reached the grand finale as Albin (Carl Mullaney) delivers a searing, defiant and heartfelt “I Am What I Am”. Rejection has never been portrayed with such authenticity.

Albin’s partner Georges (Billy Carter) hosts the ‘Cage Aux Folles’ nightclub where Albin headlines as his alter ego ‘Zaza’. Along with George’s son Jean-Michel (Ben Culleton) from a brief dalliance with the now absent biological mother, they form the most unconventional conventional family unit imaginable; supplemented by in-house maid/butler Jacob (a show-stealing, mesmerising, gender-fluid Shakeel Kimotho). Loyalties are stretched to breaking point when Jean-Michel announces his engagement to Anne Dindon (Sophie Pourret). Her father is head of the ‘Tradition, Family and Morality Party’, whose goal is to shut down the local drag clubs, of which George’s is the flagship. Albin is persuaded to absent himself for the upcoming visit of Anne’s parents, the consequences of which inform the hilarious and farcical second act.

The laughter and the pathos are continually battling to steal the limelight, but they end up in a glorious double act. The chorus line moves as one, yet each member’s individuality shines through. Although the plotline is a touch on the thin side, it is fleshed out by Harvey Fierstein’s witty script and, of course, Herman’s music and lyrics. But what really brings the house down is the talent on display, the presentation, and the sheer flamboyance of the performances – all of whom deserve mention. There is no roof at the open-air theatre, but by curtain call there wouldn’t have been anyway: the standing ovation raises it way out of sight.


LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed on 11th August 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-Written | ★★ | June 2023
Once On This Island | ★★★★ | May 2023
Legally Blonde | ★★★ | May 2022
Romeo and Juliet | ★★★½ | June 2021

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles

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Bananaman – 3 Stars



Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 4th January 2018


“the first half lacked the sense of fun and direction that the second half successfully delivered”


Having gone through the majority of my life knowing nothing of Bananaman, I was intrigued to learn more about this parody of a superhero and more importantly how a musical could be written about him.

For the uninitiated he was introduced in February 1980 on the back cover of Nutty, a new DC Thompson produced comic. He was portrayed as a hero with the ‘muscles of twenty men though with the brains of twenty mussels’. Following the success of his comic book appearances a TV cartoon was commissioned featuring the high profile voices of The Goodies. The series finished in 1986 but today visitors to Beano.com can indulge themselves in trivia and the original videos. Bananaman continues to be a popular figure in Beano.

Leon Parris has taken the original storyline and written the book, music and lyrics to this entertaining, yet bonkers production. Mark Perry directs what seems to be a cross between pantomime and a Footlights comedy show. Designer Mike Leopold has made the most of the Playhouse Large’s open space with a two level set surrounded by blown up Beano images. The atmosphere is cemented by TV theme tunes playing as the audience enters.

The story explores Bananaman’s origins when weedy Eric Wimp gains super powers which in turn leads to a series of often comical misadventures along the way with (a talking) Crow, love interest Fiona and the bumbling Chief O’Reilly whilst all the time having to endure the awful food prepared by his loving mother. It’s a classic good over evil storyline with our hero attempting to defeat the villains Dr Gloom, General Blight and the Mad Magician.

A fine cast has been assembled to get hold of the content and on my visit they brought laughter and cheer to a very responsive audience who rewarded the hard working team with a standing ovation.

Mark Newnham (from All or Nothing and Sunny Afternoon) has a great voice and plays the part of Eric Wimp well and Emma Ralston is a terrific Fiona Mullins. Jodie Jacobs takes on the role of Crow bringing her strong singing voice to the fore whilst carrying out the difficult job of being the ventriloquist making Crow come to life. TJ Lloyd is a very funny Chief O’Reilly and Matthew McKenna is everything you’d want the square jawed and muscled Bananaman to be.

Standout performances come from Marc Pickering as Dr Gloom and Carl Mullaney as the camp General Blight. Pickering is quite amazing and worth the price of the ticket alone.

Disappointingly I found the sound to be rather muddled and often overpowered the singers to such an extent that at times it was difficult to hear the words that were being sung. The lighting was basic yet reasonably effective.

Whilst I enjoyed the show I felt that the first half lacked the sense of fun and direction that the second half successfully delivered. I’m sure many Bananaman fans will fall in love with this production, though others may find it just a little too puerile to be really enjoyable and worthy of another star.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Pamela Raith



Southwark Playhouse until 20th January 2018



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