John Partridge gives a career defining performance in La Cage Aux Folles at the New Wimbledon Theatre
La Cage Aux Folles (written by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman) is based on the 1973 play by Jean Poiret. It tells the story of a gay couple who run a drag bar in Saint-Tropez, with one of them (Albin) as the star performer. His partner Georges has a son, Jean-Michael, from a previous relationship which ended when he was a baby and Albin has served as the mother figure for his whole life. But when Jean-Michael falls in love and announces he is getting married, things aren’t quite as straightforward as everyone would like because his fiance’s father is hugely against homosexuality. Can the two families meet without giving the game away that Albin is in fact not Jean-Michael’s uncle? Of course not!
John Partridge gives a career defining performance as Albin. He fully embraces his flamboyant, feminine side and make a fabulous looking woman. Despite being best known for his time in the TV soap Eastenders, John is no stranger to the West End stage having performed in the original cast of Cats and recently completing a UK Tour as Billy Flynn in Chicago. I’ve seen John in many roles over the years and this is his best work yet. Stunning.
Adrian Zmed plays the slightly less flamboyant partner Georges, who’s son has grown up and announced he is getting married… to a girl. His low-camp performance balances out nicely with John Partridge and keeps things on a good level.
Marti Webb (blink and you’ll miss her) appears to sadly have been cast in this show, just so her name can go on the poster. Her role of Jacqueline is very small and it feels like a slap in the face that a performer of her stature she has been cast in such a small role.
Samson Ajewole is brilliant as Servant/Maid Jacob, flitting around the apartment in a maids outfit without a care in the world, waiting for the day that he might be able to perform on the club stage. Special mention must go to the fabulous ensemble who make beautiful drag queens and give it their all.
At 2 hours 45mins, La Cage Aux Folles drags and there isn’t enough substance to keep the audiences attention. The two big songs La Cage Aux Folles (which seems to go on and on and on) and I Am What I Am are both the the first half, leaving the second part of the show a little underwhelming. I was also confused as to what time period the show was trying to be set in. With 70’s looking set, talks of telegrams and Beyonce references, the show didn’t seem to be able to decide what decade it wanted to be in.
La Cage Aux Folles has some wonderful music in it and I was very excited to see the show but sadly I was left underwhelmed. The only saving grace was John Partridge, who’s performance is worth seeing the show alone for.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Pamela Raith
La Cage Aux Folles plays at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 18 March 2017