“La Cage aux Folles“
Reviewer: Selina Chong
Performance: 22 April 2017
W!ld Rice’s La Cage aux Folles is a wonderful spectacle: the tunes are catchy, the set is stunning, and the mood is infectiously carefree.
The premise for the musical is heartfelt and heart-warming. Ivan Heng and Sean Ghazi respectively play Albin and George, long-time lovers and proprietors of a fictional drag-cabaret nightclub called La Cage aux Folles. Their son Jonathan wishes to marry his love, Anne, and needs his parents to present – and pretend to be – a version of themselves that Anne’s conservative parents would approve of. Comedy, of course, ensues.
The acting and singing are strong throughout. George’s performance of “Song on the Sand” is the standout for me: it is steadfast in its longing and tender in its desire. When Ghazi sings “la da da da”, there is so much wistfulness you can’t help but sigh. The ditties “We Are What We Are” and “I Am What I Am” are also particularly life-affirming, with the former presented by a raucous, androgynous drag-cabaret ensemble. It is impossible not to tap your feet or bob your head along to the beat, and makes for an appropriate introduction to La Cage aux Folles – both the production and the nightclub. Amidst the disciplined choreography and flurry of dancing limbs, the last thing we really care about is whether that’s a man in a dress! It feels to me like a strong statement that we are, indeed, what we are.
My only complaint is Darius Tan’s and Jo Tan’s portrayal of the brash pair running the corner kopitiam. Jo Tan’s Lily speaks with the most bizarre of accents while Darius Tan really hams up the ah beng trope playing Ah Seng. I imagine this has something to do with the localisation of the production, but their performances are so exaggerated that I cringed through most of their segments.
The stage is framed by a towering, gilded birdcage. The sets within it are beautiful – especially when George and Albin’s house gets redecorated for Anne’s parents’ visit – while the props help bring out the comedy. Frederick Lee’s costumes are also stunning: I find myself wanting to run onstage to examine every intricacy, touch every bauble, and stroke every feather. They really bring a great sense of exuberance to the stage, doing more than just adding colour to the visual extravaganza.
At its core, La Cage aux Folles celebrates love so wholeheartedly that one can easily overlook the clichéd twists. In reminding us that we are what we are, W!ld Rice also remind us that they are what they are – a foremost local company we can count on for a fabulous night out at the theatre.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
La Cage aux Folles by Wild Rice
19 April – 13 May 2017
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Selina loves the theatre and its ability to engage, enrapture, and entertain. The magic of the stage never ceases to create joy and wonder for her. The potential of the theatre to educate also dovetails with her teacher duties and she wishes more young people had time to watch a show instead of attend another tuition lesson.