There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Given the Jean Poiret stage show, the series of Edouard Molinaro movies, the multiple–Tony Award–winning musical adaptation, and Mike Nichols’ Americanized remake (1996’s The Birdcage), most of us know the basic story of La Cage aux Folles: St. Tropez nightclub owner Georges and life partner Albin, the drag-queen star of the show, have raised son Jean-Michel together for 20 years; Jean-Michel returns home to announce he’s marrying the daughter of a conservative, family-values-obsessed politician; the future in-laws will soon visit, and Jean-Michel concocts a plan to hide away the flamboyant Albin and fake a straight household; heartbreak and hilarity ensue. The Renegade Theater ambitiously takes on the Broadway version, overstuffing two hours with musical numbers and a cumbersome plot. The show starts well enough, with the chorus line, Les Cagelles, performing “We Are What We Are,” followed by Albin’s moving “A Little More Mascara.” Timothy King, as Albin, is a highlight throughout, displaying a real kind-heartedness beneath the fits and face paint. He and Jeff Obermiller, as Georges, make a realistic long-term couple in love; their harmonies during “Song on the Sand” are charming, and this production does one better than the original, allowing the two a kiss at the end. Stage manager Francis (co-director Dino Coppa) and houseboy Jacob (Sentell Harper) are also great fun to watch, abandoning themselves to over-the-top fruitiness. Michael DiGiacinto, as Jean-Michel, however, isn’t able to bring much sympathy to this roundly selfish character—though he makes a valiant effort. The set, by Zachary Ziembe Hallowedel, Naomi Uyama, and Laurie Gilkenson (Gilkenson also co-directed), is clever in its economy: The cabaret stage doubles as the couple’s living room, with a pink satin curtain that pulls closed for set changes; the curtain, along with a few cabaret tables in front of the stage, allow the audience to serve double duty as well, as guests in the club; and a catwalk along the top of the stage serves as the dancers’ dressing room as well as Albin’s closet. The live four-piece orchestra is likewise a fine complement to a scrappy company. However, the troupe’s best intentions can’t hold the more frenetic scenes together. Though the townspeople-driven, gossipy “La Cage aux Folles” is handled well enough, most multiple-player numbers are chaotic (“Masculinity” and the finale, for example), with weaker voices not hidden very well. —Anne Marson