DCT’s La Cage aux Folles inspires laughter and tears
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 12:34

Hit musical on DCT stage May 9, 10 and 11

by Nicole Rodman

    Rare is the play that can have audiences roaring with laughter one second and dabbing at tears the next.
    Dundalk Community Theatre’s (DCT) production of La Cage aux Folles is that play.
    First appearing on Broadway in 1983, the musical version of the show, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, was based on a French play written by Jean Poiret.
    La Cage aux Folles is set in Saint Tropez, a town on the French Riviera.
    The play centers around gay couple Georges (Jeff Burch) and Albin (Edward J. Peters).
    Georges is the owner of  La Cage aux Folles nightclub — a club well known     for its drag performers — while Albin is the club’s star performer.
    The couple is already experiencing some discontent when Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Randy Dunkel) arrives and announces that he is soon to be wed to a woman named Anne (Amanda Dickson).
    Not only is he engaged, but Jean-Michel has invited his fiancée’s extremely conservative parents, Edouard and Marie Dindon (James Hunnicutt and Kristen Cooley) to meet his parents.
    Highjinks ensue as the members of the unconventional family attempt to hide their true identities during the Dindons’ visit.
    From the start, the play throws the audience into Saint Tropez nightlife, with Georges introducing a showstopping performance of “We Are What We Are.”

In his performance as Georges, Burch fits the bill well — effectively playing the character as a man balancing the wishes of both his partner and his son.
    Burch’s ample vocal and acting talents play well with Peters’ performance of Albin.
    In a tour de force, Peters’ is pitch-perfect — portraying Albin as a man who masks his inner vulnerability with a thick layer of makeup and a flair for the dramatic.
    This vulnerability is masterfully demonstrated during Peters’ performance of “A Little More Mascara.”
    As he prepares for his performance as the drag queen “Zaza,” Albin sings of his inner pain — covered by his outer beauty — in a song that inspires both tears and toe-tapping.
    The play’s most heart-rending moment comes at the conclusion of act one as Albin, devastated by Jean-Michel’s rejection of him, belts out a touching “I Am What I Am.”
    Peters’ performance of the song is technically proficient and skillfully delivered, conveying the deep pain of a man longing to be accepted for who he is.
    Burch and Peters are as talented together as they are individually.
    Their chemistry as a couple sparkles onstage in romantic numbers such as “With You on My Arm” and “Song on the Sand.”
    In his role as Jean-Michel, Dunkel is faced with the challenging task of playing a more subdued man surrounded by a cast of colorful, over-the-top characters.
    Nonetheless, Dunkel’s Jean-Michel serves as an effective straight man (in every sense of the word).
    The play’s hilarity escalates upon the arrival of the Dindons.
    As ultra-conservative Edouard Dindon, James Hunnicut is well-suited to the task of playing an uptight man who soon finds himself being drawn into the madcap world that he has unwittingly entered.
    In the expertly-executed “Cocktail Counterpoint,” the contrasting thoughts and motives of all of the main characters are conveyed as each performer sings different lines at the same time.
    While the play is both heartfelt and hilarious, the comedic ante is upped with zany performances by J. Jeffrey Harrison as Jacob, Georges’ and Albin’s butler (who would prefer to be called a maid).
    Backup performances are provided by the Cagelles, drag performers who deliver over-the-top dramatics both on the nightclub stage and behind the scenes.
    Kudos must also be given to the play’s production staff.
    The play is well served by veteran DCT director Tom Colonna.
    In a play filled with large-scale musical numbers, choreographer Tom Wyatt proved to be up for the challenge.
    In his role as scenic/lighting designer and technical director, Marc W. Smith is a standout.
    Audiences are easily transported to the shores of Saint-Tropez with a variety of detailed sets — from the sparkling nightclub stage to the pink-hued apartment of Georges and Albin.
    While the show does lack a costume designer, the costumes themselves are not lacking.
    From Zaza’s glittery gowns to the feathered and sequined outfits worn by the Cagelles, the costumes add to the illusion effectively executed onstage.
    La Cage aux Folles marks the end of DCT’s 40th anniversary season.
    The next season will begin this fall and feature the doo-wop musical Leader of the Pack, Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs and a production of The Addams Family.
    There is one weekend left to catch DCT’s showstopping production of La Cage aux Folles. The show will run through May 11.