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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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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – 4 Stars


The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 21st August 2018


“what truly drives this production are the performances”


Initially a stage play, “Little Voice” was turned into the hugely successful fin-de-siècle movie starring Jane Horrocks, but has since been staged and well received enough for it to have become, if not quite a classic, a safe bet on the theatre scene. A victim of its success, there is the danger that audiences will cease to be amazed by the story of the shy, reclusive girl who reveals a powerfully beautiful voice. Tom Latter’s revival at the Park Theatre steers clear of that danger with a production that, even for those who know the story backwards, is as fresh as if it were written yesterday.

Desperately missing her dead father, Little Voice spends her time locked in her bedroom listening to his old record collection and perfecting her striking impersonations of famous singing divas. Her mother, the brash Mari, through sheer neglect does her best to stamp out this talent, until she starts dating small-time, dodgy impresario Ray, who attempts to coax Little Voice out of her hiding place. He sees a ticket to the big time. Mari sees an escape route to a better life. Little Voice just wants a normal life. Surely not everybody can get what they want.

Latter’s direction is punchy, assured and, played out on Jacob Hughes’ simple yet clever split-level design, remains faithful to writer Jim Cartwright’s script. But what truly drives this production are the performances.

Rafaella Hutchinson as Little Voice is a master impersonator, capturing the tones and vocal inflections of Monroe, Bassey, Holiday, Garland, Lee – and even Cher. Hutchinson’s transformation from damaged waif to impassioned cabaret star (and back again) is entirely believable, while she manages to trigger those contrasting emotions within you: you are willing her to break out of her shell and achieve the recognition she so deserves, yet at the same time condemning the exploitation.

But the star of the show is undoubtedly Sally George as the relentlessly chattering Mari. A sharp contrast to the silent and fearful Little Voice, yet thanks to George’s captivating performance you can see through Mari’s brash exterior to know that she shares the same insecurities as her daughter. (Interestingly they are also real-life mother and daughter). Her portrayal of Mari is quite magnificent. No pause is left unfilled by Cartwright’s bitingly hilarious text as George delivers her lines with precision timing. Seemingly unaware of the damage she is inflicting, it is all the more heart-wrenching when her daughter finally cracks the hard shell of her self-centredness.

Strong support comes from Linford Johnson as the tongue-tied electrician who woos Little Voice from the rooftops with a nervous uncertainty that belies his faith in her. Kevin McMonagle’s dubious Ray Say pans from leery charm to heartless menace in a riveting performance that lifts his character well out of the pitfall of caricature that is all too easy to fall into with this role. Jamie-Rose Monk as monosyllabic Sadie often threatens to silently steal the show, while Shaun Prendergast takes that threat further with his stand out portrayal of the stand-up Mr Boo: nightclub owner. His club-compere routines are hilarious. While the laughs from the audience are genuine, Prendergast’s own appreciation of his pitch-perfect wise-cracks are a thin veneer that fails to conceal the charred and dying hopes and dreams beneath.

The performances highlight the humour in Jim Cartwright’s dialogue, but here they also accentuate the play’s central themes of neglect, exploitation, grief, loneliness and abuse. When Little Voice herself finally dispenses with her alter-egos and poignantly sings in her own voice we are reminded that this production has its own voice too, which sets it apart from many other versions of this Northern fairy-tale.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Ali Wright


The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Park Theatre until 15th September


Previously reviewed at this venue
There or Here | ★★★ ½ | January 2018
Passage to India | ★★★ | February 2018
A Princess Undone | ★★★ | February 2018
Vincent River | ★★★★ | March 2018
Pressure | ★★★★ | April 2018
Building the Wall | ★★★★ | May 2018
End of the Pier | ★★★★ | July 2018



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