I knew the basic story of "La Cage Aux Folles" from the hit 1996 movie "The Birdcage" starring Robin Williams. As far as the musical itself, I only know one song, "I Am What I Am". This 9 Works production of "La Cage" initially ran earlier this year, but I missed that one because of schedule conflicts. The reviews of that show on social media were glowing, so I wished there would be a rerun. Well, I got my wish, as they ran the show again beginning last August 15. I was not going to miss it this time.
Georges ran a nightclub featuring female impersonators, where his partner Albin is the star drag queen diva performer Zaza. One day, Jean-Michel, Georges' 24-year old son from a one night stand, came home with news that he is getting married to his girlfriend Anne. However, since Anne's parents were of the ultra-conservative sort, he wanted Georges could invite his real mother Sibyl and to request Albin not to attend at all. When he gets wind of this, Albin is hurt very deeply. But when a problem arose on the critical day of the visit of Anne's family, Albin still could not let Jean-Michel, the son he raised, down -- but it has to be in his own fabulous way.
Audie Gemora has already been showered with all sorts of accolades for his performance as Albin since the first run of this musical in the first quarter of this year. Clearly we can see why. We know he can be glamourous and scandalously funny in drag from his award-winning featured performance as cross-dressing director Roger deBris in "The Producers". In the showy lead role of Alban, Gemora stayed in character with class, restraint and dignity, even as he was practically onstage in the whole duration of the play. He positively slayed the showstopping closing song of the first act "I Am What I Am," imbuing the anthem with hurt, pain and indignation.
Michael de Mesa is unceasingly charming as Georges. His role may be considerably lower-key in acting moments and in costumes, but de Mesa still manages to shine right through. He is probably the only member of the cast who does not wear a wig or a dress, but his presence was never overwhelmed in all the diva drama, feathers and ballgowns. I have not heard him sing since he was Collins in "Rent" way way back, so hearing de Mesa sing and dance again was an additional thrill.
Everybody else in the cast seemed to be having a lot of fun. Standing out were Joni Galeste (as Anne) with good girl vibes and killer ballet moves, and Sheila Francisco (as Anne's mother) with her repressed ebullience fighting to come out to the open. Some of the cast may be overdoing the flamboyance, coming across as annoying than funny. Some of the cast may look uncomfortably miscast, with physical disconnect with their role. Anyway, what is important was that everything was done all in the spirit of fun, where exaggeration is the norm, with no inhibitions holding them back. They are who they are.
The technical aspects of the set were all in their colorful and fancy best, with all those glittering lights. Those showgirl costumes were all so glittering and extravagant -- no expenses were spared in that department. The choreography was very good, especially the tap dancing which was a true joy to watch.
Kudos to Director Robbie Guevara and the rest of the 9 Works cast and crew for this entertainingly funny, feeling and fabulous show! A definite must-watch!
"La Cage Aux Folles" will run weekends at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Building, Makati up to September 6, 2015. For tickets and inquiries contact 0917-554-5560, 586-7105, Ticketworld at 891-9999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.