Sunday, August 14, 2016

La Cage Kills in Rockaway Theatre Company Production - The Wave

The biggest thrill of all for many audience members is trying to tell the girls from the boys - and often not succeeding.

[I temporarily removed the lead photo of Les Cagelles backstage until the show's run is over because it was felt by some it gave away genders and one of the ideas is to keep people guessing. It was a wonderful photo and I will restore it next week.]

I've been pretty preoccupied with the RTC recently - I have a few walk-ons in this show and helped build the sets. I'm finding it a lot more fun that battling ed deform. That so many school teachers are involved in the theater generally and in this production makes this an added treat. One of the leads in La Cage is a union president and on the central labor council with Mulgrew. An Assist Princ is one of the dancers as are 3 teachers. The passion and commitment over the past 3 months of all these people, some of whom travel up to 2 hours to get to the theater, has been amazing.

The audience laughs, it cries and whoops it up in cheers and standing ovations. The large cast and crew of the RTC at Fort Tilden's theatre completed the 6th performance of La Cage Aux Folles last night to rave reviews. Some people have come back 3 times or more. They just can't seem to get enough of the show. Every night after the show the cast doesn't seem to want to leave each other, despite some very long trips home. There has been as much bonding on this show as I've ever seen.

Regulars  at all our shows have said this may be the best one yet.
Aside from a great show the social message is delivered with both force and subtlety. Who would have thought even 5 years ago that gay marriage would be legal? 

Still 4 performances to go with a matinee today at 2PM - with proceeds going to the North Shore Animal League which will be there with an adoption van from noon to 6PM.

And performances next Fri, Sat nite at 8 and Sunday at 2. Mostly sold out but if interested email and I'll check.

All photos below by Rob Mintzes

La Cage’ Kills
Memo from the RTC
By Norm Scott

The great Chazmond Peacock
“Why isn’t Chaz (Chazmond Peacock) on Broadway?” said a friend of mine on the way out of last Saturday’s performance of La Cage Aux Folles at the Rockaway Theatre Company in Fort Tilden. Having seen Chaz dominate every role he has taken on at the RTC over the past decade, I can only agree. Yet his greatest performance to date may be in the role of Albin/Zaza, a gay drag-queen star at the nightclub known as La Cage Aux Folles. Albin has lived for decades with club owner and master of ceremonies George (a fabulous John Heffernan) and their maid Jacob (the insanely great Matthew Smilardi who steals every scene he/she is in). The couple’s son, Jean-Michel (Frank Caiati, one of the RTC’s major all-around talents over the past 13 years – now all of 30 years old) wants to hide the fact the people who brought him up are gay. His dad isn’t flamboyant and can pass but Albin is a no-no and Jean-Michel wants to hide him away from his fiancĂ©e (the wonderful Leigh Dillon) and his future in-laws (RTC top level performers David Risley and Luisa Boyaggi, both of whom have played leads in past productions). The dad is a major anti-gay politician. Add the dancing queens, Les Cagelles, and we are off to the races in very funny and often sad and poignant play.

Producer Susan Jasper writes in the production notes “This is a story about family.” Quoting the play’s book writer, Harvey Fierstein, “What child at some point has not been ashamed to introduce parents to friends? What parent has not wondered ‘Where did we go wrong?’ What marriage has not been tested in these familial flames?” OK, so this family may be a bit unusual but in today’s world not all that unusual.

When the RTC decided to do La Cage…some felt the material might be too edgy for the usual RTC audience which are generally older. Susan Jasper touched on this new direction for the RTC. “For the past 18 years the RTC has made its reputation bringing you the best in family theatrical entertainment… We recently decided it was time to branch out and include some edgier material.”
Based on the reactions of the first three performances last weekend there was nothing to worry about as there were standing ovations and sing-alongs at the end with Les Cagelles getting some of the biggest hands at curtain call, especially when they took off their wigs. As part of the crew and at times part of the on-stage ensemble, I have gotten to see various snatches of the play from different vantage points and also to gauge some of the audience reactions. I found that for some of the audience there was possibly some discomfort in the early part of the play in Act I until Chaz sings his heart out at the end of the act and totally captures the audience who root for Albin the rest of the way and cheer when the family is made whole again at the end. Chaz’ winning over the audience is the key to making them believe in this family and without a superb actor like Chaz who can sing like the star he is the show might sink instead of soaring.

There are a lot more people to mention regarding one of the best productions ever at the RTC. See you next week with more.

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