We’re a tough crowd these days. Having the kind of access that we have to tons of entertainment is probably why; we don’t even need to get out of bed to watch this year’s Oscar-winning films or even the latest episode of Girls. We can see it all, and we probably have — so much so that it’s becoming hard for us to get impressed by anything anymore. Beyoncé drops another secret album? Whatever.
But La Cage aux Folles, 9 Works Theatrical’s latest offering, wakes us from our bored slumber with a well-deserved punch in the gut, as if to remind us that there’s a lot more out there we’ve yet to see. Elaborate sets, witty dialogue, and hot men dressed in drag certainly make this show great. But its genius truly lies in its hilarious, at times farcical, but also touching story.
Based on the 1973 French play by Jean Poiret, it was turned into musical by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein. It’s about a gay couple in Saint Tropez —Georges (Michael de Mesa), who manages a nightclub in the South of France that showcases male entertainers in drag, and his partner Albin (Audie Gemora), who is also the club’s main attraction.
The story’s begins when Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Steven Silva), the product of a romantic liaison with another performer, decides to marry the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician. Jean-Michel is reluctant to introduce his family, because his fiancée’s father has been lobbying to shut down all the drag clubs in the area. Hijinks ensue as Jean-Michel attempts to pretend that his father is a respectable diplomat and that Albin (who has acted as his mother) is simply “Uncle Al.”
Same love: Audie Gemora as Albin / Zaza is the star attraction of the La Cage Aux Folles. Audie is long considered to be the king of Philippine theater, and rightfully so.
La Cage offers a simple but powerful premise, that love is love no matter what shape or form. We saw that in show runners Audie and Michael, who were so convincing as an aging gay couple who have managed to stay in love after decades. There was a palpable sense of giddiness in the theater whenever they were onstage scene together, especially when Michael’s character would sweet-talk his wife with Song in the Sand. And Audie playing drag, especially as the sublime Zaza, was topnotch. He embodies a real man-woman scorned, from his pained lines in I Am What Am to every flick of his wrist in the titular song La Cage Aux Folles.
It was also a real treat to watch the cagelles, the club’s effeminate male performers, prance and preen in heels and tight dresses. Noel Rayos as Jacob the “maid” and his array of costumes—from the orphan Annie to a stern nun— were perhaps the most hilarious parts of the show. Rafa Siguion-Reyna, who last played macho Kenickie in 9Works’ staging of Grease, was a crowd favorite as cagelle Mercedes. Playing a couple in love, Steven Silva and Missy Macuja-Elizalde (who’s only 16!) added a dimension of sweetness to the lavish parade.
It’s incredible that we’re getting more and more of this kind of entertainment—the kind that is in-your-face, straight-up fabulous. And because it pleases the eye and touches the heart of any kind of discerning audience, it’s only right that everyone watch it. So bring your mom, bring your lola, and even your yaya. Prepare to clear out the floor, though, because jaws will drop. But in the best possible way, of course.
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La Cage aux Folles is running from Feb. 28 to March 29, 2015 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza. For tickets and inquiries, call 586-7105 or 0917-5545560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.