Sunday , March 3 2024

Theatre Review (Singapore): ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ from W!ld Rice

W!ld Rice’s re-staging of the musical La Cage Aux Folles will be at the Victoria Theatre from 19 April to 13 May 2016.

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La Cage tells the tale of couple Albin (Ivan Heng) and George (Sean Ghazi). An aging star of the stage, Albin has been “mother” to George’s son Jonathan. When Jonathan (Aaron Khaled) gets engaged to Anne (Mae Elliessa), whose father is a conservative politician, Jonathan decides that he has to keep Albin’s existence under wraps so as to not ruffle the feathers of his future in-laws. However, things don’t go as planned when Albin’s biological mother doesn’t show up to a dinner with Anne’s parents, and Albin has to step up and do his motherly duty.

The last time W!ld Rice staged La Cage it was in 2012 and I loved that production. The good news is that I loved this one as well. With its good acting, memorable and catchy songs, and funny dialogue – plus glitzy costumes and enticing dance numbers – La Cage is certainly still a standout musical to me, despite this being my third time seeing it!

W!ld Rice’s version still contains Singlish and plenty of local references and jokes, which makes the musical all the more relatable.

Special mention has to be made of Jo Tan who pulls double duty as the hawker centre stall assistant from China and Anne’s alcohol-loving mother. Tan nails the comedic timing as well as the accents and tones for the disparate characters convincingly.

My only complaint is that Frances Lee, who plays the manipulative Jacqueline, doesn’t rise to Tan Kheng Hua’s 2012 portrayal. Lee’s Jacqueline is presented as sweet and lacking in cunning, so when her antics are revealed it doesn’t make as much sense.

The Cagelles (the musical’s ensemble of dancers) are a draw, with their well choreographed and extremely entertaining numbers. And despite Victoria Theatre being a much smaller space than the Esplanade, where the earlier production ran, director Glen Goei makes full use of the more intimate space to make the interaction between Albin and the audience work better than in the past. (Although I feel the reference to Sun Ho’s lack of talent seems a bit passé.)

Heng shines as Albin, wearing the character like a second skin, especially in the musical numbers and in the scene when he tries to make himself appear more masculine. I still feel that Heng’s singing voice isn’t necessarily made for musical theatre, but it did seem to me to sound better than it did in 2012, so might a third time be the charm? Because the truth is that La Cage Aux Folles is a delight, and as proven by W!ld Rice, timeless too.

About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.

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