Friday March 7, 2014 / 8:00pmLa Cage aux Folles
How was your experience?
Start with a keyboard player who can’t play the score; add a totally useless trombone, wireless mics that crackle better than carry voices, a mixed buffet of a cast who obviously can’t hear the “band”, a director/designer/choreographer who thinks he is all things to all people and an oversold opening night house: Welcome to LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at the Maverick Theatre in Fullerton. The French film made into this Broadway musical later made into a non-musical film features a toe tapper of a score by Jerry Herman and is the story of an older gay couple who own and perform at a notorious Drag club on the French Riviera; the son of the club owner wants to marry the daughter of a moral majority type politician and from there the fun should ensue – fun was short all round on opening night. This is a show that belongs to the two male leading men and requires a chemistry between the two that makes it believable for them to have supposedly spent their lives together raising a son-it’s meant to be heartwarming and a love conquers all message with lots of laughs and drama along the way – in this production the chemistry simply doesn’t happen. Glenn Koppel as Albin the star of La Cage is the most seasoned performer and has the voice for the role; sadly he was unattractively costumed and wigged and seemed unsure of his footing on the multi-tiered set-the terrible musical accompaniment and lackluster direction left him out on his own a great deal. It was obvious that he could not hear the band and that, combined with musicians who sounded like they needed much more rehearsal made it impossible for him to develop his performance Especially obvious in the showstopper solo turn of the show’s anthem “I AM WHAT I AM” when Mr. Koppel finally had a decent costume and a spotlight and was ready to pour his everything in the number the lack of support from the band made it a jerky, frustrating exercise for both him AND the audience. The musical director (and keyboard player BTW) owes him and the rest of the cast a huge apology. The small "band" is tucked up and to the right of the stage a la many old Vegas shows-one wonders why the company decided not to use a pre-recorded orchestra track like many small theatres are doing now? The ATTIC THEATRE in Santa Ana just did spiffy "How To Succeed in Business..." with a pre-recorded track that certainly worked better than the "Live Band" here. As Georges the club owner/spouse Richard Comeau is attractive, has a pleasant voice but seemed to be in a completely different production stylistically. Also his opening bit where they require him to make announcements usually done over a loudspeaker by the house manager is embarrassing and breaks his characters believability. Michael D.H. Phillips as the “straight“ son acted the part gayer than his “father” and is way out of his league as a singer in this part. The rest of the cast trudged through the evening as hardily as they were able worth a mention is Ruben Renteria as Mercedes who just seemed to “get it” all better than the rest. Mr. Renteria looked as if he belonged in the show and was the most convincing of the Cagelles. Curtis Jerome seems to have directed and designed the show pretty much single handedly perhaps had he concentrated on directing the show and left the rest to others the production would have been more successful on all points. Costumes attempted to be glitzy and flashy but mostly seemed either borrowed or adapted off the rack. The “set” consisted pretty much of a badly hung sequin backdrop and some miscellaneous bits of this and that, the lighting was fine but the poorly used fog machine was as extraneous as the trombone-the show could lose both to the betterment of all concerned. The opening night audience was enthusiastic and obviously there to support friends and family-about a quarter of the ticket holders walked out at the interval. The Maverick theatre could have used this portion of their budget to do a strong, down-sized CABARET in the attractive Art Deco setting of their theater; the Kander and Ebb piece seems more within their grasp than a lavish musical that requires too many strong components to make it work. If you enjoy Community Theatre this production might be worth a trip to Fullerton-tickets are inexpensive and over the next weeks the whole business may improve as they work out the bugs. Performing in the same city as "3D Theatricals" musicals all local theatres are going to be compared even when one understands the differences-Maverick is known for smaller, tight, campy shows like Plan 9 from Outer Space-they have SPAMALOT on their season this year-that show may fare better than this one. The production plays weekends through April 26, 2014. The Maverick Theatre 110 East Walnut, Fullerton, CA - find parking on the street in the area-their lot is a nightmare.