(5 / 5)
Cardiff’s New Theatre was packed to the rafters with a dazzling array of glitter and sequins last night for the first performance of La Cage aux Folles. The musical adaptation of French playwright Jean Poiret’s script is largely recognised as one of the greatest modern musicals. The stage production, directed by Martin Connor, is a throwback to the old glamour and glitz associated with the French Riviera but also has a very key message in the story.
One of the leading characters, Georges, is played by the US TV and Broadway actor Adrian Zmed who greets the audience with a heartfelt welcome to La Cage. There was something a little different about this cabaret, however, in the form of all the main performers in the cast being men dressed as women.
‘La Cage’ is a drag cabaret club in the heart of Saint Tropez, run by Georges and his very flamboyant husband Albin who is played by West End actor and former Eastenders star John Partridge. As the audience are waiting for Albin’s arrival on stage we are first greeted by the appearance of his on-stage alter ego Zaza. John Partridge creates an impressive character as he struts across the stage in a robe and a pair of high heels. He wins over the audience from the beginning and really gives the part his all.
The story unfolds when Georges and Albin’s son, Jean- Michele, (Georges’ from a previous relationship) arrives to tell his father that he is engaged to Anne, the daughter of a French politician who is well-known for his conservative views. Jean- Michele played by Dougie Carter drops a few bombshells on his dad. Including that of breaking the news to Albin that he can’t be there when the parents come over for dinner at their home.
Albin is horrified when he hears the news and his disappointment leads to a spine tingling performance from John Partridge of the musical’s most iconic number ‘I Am What I am’. Georges and Albin soon make up and it’s easy to like the two contrasting co-stars who have a brilliant on-stage chemistry with each other which could be compared to that of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi in the ITV series Vicious. The arrival of Dindon, the French politician, and his apparently conservative wife raised the bar once again on the entertainment as Albin comes up with a hilarious plan to meet the in-laws to be.
John Partridge’s performance as Albin and Zaza is absolutely superb and while the audience cheered and got to its feet for the entire cast, the largest applause and cheers were saved for him. During the performance John Partridge fell down some of the stairs on stage but being the true professional he is, kept in character and even made a joke about it. He carried on with the rest of the show and came on for the second act. Following the show John Partridge had to go to A&E and I really have to applaud him for being so professional and continuing with the show despite being in pain.
All of the cast were amazing and really very talented especially during the tap dancing scenes in which the male dancers very skillfully danced in high heels and gowns. A special mention must also go to Samson Ajewole who played Jacob and was exceptionally funny. He delivered a very strong performance and was one of the stars of the evening. As too was Marti Webb who played Jacqueline and created a very likeable character for the audience.
The stage sets used during the show were simply divine. All of the scenes in the show were very well thought out and the sets changed seamlessly. My personal favourite set design of the show was that of the stage at La Cage. The show saw a theatre stage constructed within a stage which is shown in the picture below and worked really well as it gave the audience the perspective of watching a whole different theatre on stage.
La Cage Aux Folles is a brilliant and moving, feel-good production that will be guaranteed to leave you smiling as you walk out the theatre doors and taking a whole new look on life. I urge everyone who get’s the chance to see the show to go as you will not regret it!
La Cage Aux Folles is currently on a UK tour so make sure you visit the New Theatre website in the link below and book your tickets before its too late.
“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts “and so Cardiff welcomes the touring production of Chicago. In a first for the Wales Millennium Centre the smash hit musical Chicago has arrived to entertain packed audiences. Chicago is based on the real life events in the roaring 1920s. A nightclub singing sensation Velma murders her husband, and Chicago’s smoothest lawyer, Billy Flynn, sets out to act has her defence. But when Roxie ends up in prison on similar charges, Billy takes on her case too, turning her too into a media sensation. Neither of the two women will be surpassed in their fight against each other for fame and celebrity status.
As the audience sat down before the performance an announcement was made informing us that John Partridge who plays lawyer Billy Flynn would not be performing due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and therefore the role would be played instead by his understudy Kerry Spark. Despite the obvious disappointment by some audience members we needn’t have worried as Kerry Spark gave an excellent performance.
This revival tour of Chicago showed a whole different side to the show by stripping the production back to its bare bones, with a full band positioned on a podium on stage, minimal costumes on the performers and some chairs. As an audience member, you seem to have the feeling that the music is the main star of the show and the thing you should be concentrating on most of all.
In the performance, Sophie Carmen-Jones played Velma Kelly, the tough performer awaiting trial for the murder of her husband and sister. Sophie Carmen-Jones delivers a brilliant Velma who is very confident and self-assured but still beneath her many layers is highly vulnerable.
Hayley Tamaddon is utterly sublime as Roxie Hart. Hayley Tamaddon brings out a different version of Roxie with slightly more comedy and shyness in Roxie than audiences will not have seen before. There are many moments during the performance where Roxie really comes into her own and shines like a star.
In my opinion, the two leading ladies are perfectly matched and when they come together and perform the ‘Hot Honey Rag’ to the end of the show they are wonderfully in synch with each other bringing a smile to every audience member.
The Matron of the Cook County Jail, Mama Morton was played by Gina Murray. The role is usually played by former X Factor winner Sam Bailey however she took a break from the tour. Gina Murray was brilliant as Mama Morton and has a good mix of being stern and kind to the inmates. Her performance in the song ‘When You’re Good To Mama’ was amazing and received a loud applause from the audience.
One of the real stand out characters during the musical was A D Richardson as Mary Sunshine. Each line of the song ‘A little bit of good’ is presented with a strong sense of carefulness and delicacy. It’s an extremely gruelling role that can be extremely difficult to sing night after night, but you get one of the best vocal performances I have seen. Without giving a major plot spoiler away it is unbelievable how good the characters voice is considering the circumstances.
Roxie’s all loving and walked upon husband Amos Hart is played by Neil Ditt. Extremely well performed, the character is worked, used and mistreated by Roxie and Billy but it is a truly wonderful performance by Neil Ditt and this is especially shown in the song Mr Cellophane which demonstrates to the audience how this extremely bland man is constantly striving to be noticed by others.
‘The 6 marry murderesses of the cook county in jail in their rendition of the cell block tango’ are outstanding with the cast consisting of Sophie Carmen-Jones, Lindsey Tierney, Ellie Mitchell, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee and Chelsea Labadini. This performance is very powerful and each character portrayed is very different with a stand out personality that draws in the audience.
It would be very wrong to not mention the utterly divine band for the performance led by the fantastic Ben Atkinson. It truly is the icing on the cake for this touring production. All through the show the energy levels of the band were extremely high and the music blasted out around the Wales Millennium Centre. The two real highlight moments of the band was during the Entr’acte and Playout because it was then they came into their own. Ben Atkinson was conducting upside down leaning over a wall and climbing over the staging while leading his band. He finally ended up draped over the piano upside down with his band dancing around the stage. An utterly amazing performance.
You don’t want to be ‘Mister Cellophane’ so make yourself seen and go and watch Chicago: The Musical at the Wales Millennium Centre. The musical is showing between 25th Jul – 30th Jul 2016. Tickets are selling fast so please make sure you get them via this link-