Review: La Cage Aux Folles at New Wimbledon Theatre

An unforgettable night as 'drag show'opens its doors in SW19

A brash new nightclub is opening its doors in Wimbledon until Saturday - it's called La Cage Aux Folles and I can promise it'll give you an unforgettable evening!

A new Bill Kenwright production of the 1980s hit musical has started a nationwide tour at the New Wimbledon Theatre, and on last night's showing it's bound to be a success.

The theatre is transformed into the glitzy world of a St Tropez nightclub - La Cage Aux Folles - where John Partridge stars as Albin and his drag act alter ego, Zaza.

He lives an idyllic existence with Georges, played by American actor Adrian Zmed, but all may be about to change when Georges’ son Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a right-wing politician who wants to close down the local colourful night-life.

Partridge, whose theatre credits include West End productions of A Chorus Line, Cats, Starlight Express and Chicago, as well as playing Christian Clarke in TV's EastEnders, is the undoubted star of the show.

He seemed to positively relish playing the OTT role of the drag queen in all its glamour, while managing to combine a hint of pathos with some risque jokes.

The humourous side of the show quite surprised me, including the ad-lib interactions with the audience, as well as some mild-mannered 'digs' about upcoming Wimbledon productions. It gave the performance an almost panto-like feeling on occasion.

The real hilarity comes when Georges and Albin meet the parents of Jean-Michel's fiance. Albin has to play the role of his life to ensure that Jean-Michel can marry his love Anne, and receive her accompanying dowry.

The bigoted reaction of Anne's father to George and Albin's loving relationship is still relevant more than 30 years after the original Broadway production opened in 1983. Ultimately, the show's message is that love conquers all, so the ending won't surprise you.

Along the way there are terrific performances from Marti Webb, as restaurateur Jacqueline, and maid/butler Jacob, played by Samson Ajewole.

The musical numbers, including The Best of Times, Song on the Sand and the iconic I Am What I Am, were just lapped up by the audience - who were enthused enough to join in on cue.

The costumes and the dancing, especially the tap sequence in the opening part of the show, were also spectacular. In short, there's nothing to dislike about this production, so grab your ticket while it's in town.

By Sue Choularton

March 16, 2017

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La Cage Aux Folles: at Wimbledon until March 18

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