La Cage aux Folles Review – San Diego Reader

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La Cage Aux Folles will make you want to throw on a wig and heels
Delightfully memorable moments characterize the San Diego Musical Theatre production
By Jon Reimer, Sept. 29, 2015

San Diego Musical Theatre is transforming the beautiful Spreckels Theatre into a Mediterranean drag club for their current production of La Cage Aux Folles, now through October 11.

The musical follows Georges, the owner of a nightclub in St. Tropez, and his longtime partner Albin, a drag performer in the club. Jean-Michel, Georges’ son whom they raised together, comes home one evening with news that he wants to get married and that doing so will require certain problematic requests to be met.

David Engel plays Albin, who also headlines in the club as Zaza. Engel has come a long way from his originating the role of Hannah from Hamburg (the one with the whip) in the original Broadway cast of La Cage Aux Folles. He has been a regular on the San Diego theatre circuit lately, and this is the best performance this city has seen him in yet. Engel works hard in heels to bring Albin and Zaza to life, balancing effeminate mannerisms with a loveable oeuvre that endear us to his character.

Robert J. Townsend is the perfect actor to play Georges, giving the show’s father figure a debonair swagger without losing a moment of tenderness. If you need one reason to see this production, it is hands down worth coming to hear the exquisite performance by Townsend of the show’s main ballad, “Song On the Sand.” His voice sounds beautiful, and everything he does seems effortless.

The dancing chorus queens of Les Cagelles are fantastic! Each one has a personality that electrifies from the first song-and-dance number, “We Are What We Are,” until you leave the theatre. Despite the costumes failing to soften their impressively muscular physiques, these transvestite talents will have you laughing and cheering until your sides split.

James Vasquez is another impressive comic who almost steals the show entirely as the quirky household servant, Jacob. Every entrance and exit by Vasquez makes the most of his time on stage, never failing to push the limits of appropriateness in pursuit of a laugh.

The supporting cast all take turns cracking jokes or singing solos over the course of the show, and each of them make delightfully memorable moments. Christine Hewitt is an awesome Jacqueline, belting out her character’s attempts to outshine Zaza. Bren Thor Johnson does a fine job as the son Jean-Michel, as does Ashley Ruth Jones as his love interest Anne. David Mitchum Brown and Debra Wagner also get in some good laughs as Anne’s conservative parents.

San Diego as a city is no stranger to drag shows, having produced some of the country’s most famous drag queens (RuPaul and Chad Michaels both grew up in San Diego). As such, when a production of La Cage is mounted in this town, this city has high standards for drag. In this regard, SDMT’s La Cage Aux Folles does not disappoint!

Throw on a wig, put on your best pair of heels, and head on down to be a part of the fun that’s happening at La Cage Aux Folles at the Spreckels Theatre.

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