La Cage aux Folles Oct. 2009

london west end

I saw this show 17 times. Seventeen times. No, I didn’t just like it. I adored it. And its two male leads John Barrowman, indubitably the world’s best entertainer, and Simon Burke were the absolute best cast for their parts. Barrowman, whose voice is clear and bright and a joy to listen to, made the role of Zaza/Albin his own, from the high heeled shoes to the sequined dresses and the voluptious … hair! That man cleaned up nicer than many of his female followers, which the ladies in question (me amongst them) acknowledged with only a little bit of envy.

The story of course is well known: Zaza, the most notorious homosexual at the Riviera, flamboyantly stars as the lead chanteuse at night club La Cage aux Folles, owned by his partner of 20 years, Georges, who has fathered a boy 25 years ago whom they both have raised. This boy now wants to marry – unfortunately the daughter of a right wing politician. When the two families meet for the first time, Zaza saves the day by playing their son’s absent mother. Until all hell breaks loose.

Now the show itself is a success even with lesser actors (as I will point out in an upcoming blog, so stop by again!) but to have two terrific actors/singers like Barrowman and Burke starring it enters a whole new dimension of brilliant.

John Barrowman is not only one of the most handsome men around, his enthusiasm a joy on any given day. But it is his acting abilities that elevate the part of Albin/Zaza far above the caricature-like performances that I’d seen before. Yes, he enjoys a bit of naughty jokes and milks them to the audience’s delight. But he also has the fine tuning down pat, the distress, the despair in his eyes when the boy he has raised as his son wants him anywhere but near the new in-laws is heartbreaking and gripping. And the way he starts the gay anthem  “I am what I am” with tears in his voice, then getting more and more agitated and enraged about the unfairness of it all, is something I’ll never ever forget. The last notes of the song shook the whole house every time and yet they seemed easy for him.

I shall never eat a croissant again in my whole life. I’m having trouble eating toast as it is. And I found a “new” actor to follow: Simon Burke. The Australian born actor and singer is a gentle soul, a great George to John’s Albin, and has a great voice. Song on the Sand is absolutely adorable when he interprets it and the chemistry between the two men is very convincing and – quite frankly – very hot.

The last scene, the both of them in regular clothes, without any make-up and kissing on the show-stairs is the perfect sexy and loving end to an emotional terrific evening at the theatre. Standing ovations were in order on each and every night I saw the show.

oh, and John Barrowman’s lips are soft, yet strong – I once was the lucky one sitting on table C seat 1, where Zaza kisses the hand of one member of the audience while singing The best of Times is Now (and how right s/he is!!!). I didn’t wash my hand for days.

All that said: John Barrowman is a brilliant actor and singer and entertainer. To see him live on stage in a play where he is basically “on” 90 per cent of the time is pure joy. I’d go again, if I could…

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