Glamourreturns to the stage in Dundalk Community Theatre’s production of LaCage Aux Folles

I have long lamented the paucity ofglamour in the general Baltimore area, better known for its blue collarworkers, or the high-tech, education-rich, environment of start-ups and academicpursuits. It is only in the arena of thetheatre that we are exposed to the good, old-fashioned, Hollywood heydayversion of glamour. Dundalk CommunityTheatre has breathed life into a genre that is all too hard to find these dayswith the final offering of their 40th season, the outstandingproduction of La Cage Aux Folles.

Director Tom Collona has assembled a stellar cast and crew, and his nimbledirection, segueing seamlessly from scene to scene, emotion to emotion, ispresented as a big, beautiful bouquet of sequins, hot pinks, and gorgeous sets,all showcasing a marvelous cast. Werethere any flaws? Yes, some. But they took away so little as to be easilyforgiven or even better, ignored.

Marc W. Smith’s inventive scenic andlighting designs complement every element of the show. Skillfully using rented and original setpieces and backdrops and adding flattering lighting he creates an environmentthat is a perfect setting for this story set on the French Riviera. There is no costumer listed in the credits(most were rented), but they, along with the hair and make-up for everycharacter were well done and professional. Tim Vieth’s leadership of the orchestra was a delight – an element thatis frequently all too hard to come by in local theatre productions.

The story of George, the proprietor andEmcee of the most fabulous cabaret/night club in St. Tropez, and his partner ofsome 20 years, Albin, also known as Zsa Zsa, the headliner of the drag show, isat the center of this show. WhenGeorge’s (and by default Albin’s) son – Jean-Michel – announces he wants to marry the daughter ofthe most right-wing, homophobic politician in France, and has invited her andher family to meet his parents, it sets off a chain of events that includes anexamination of family values, loyalties, and love. This cast superbly rises to the challenge ofpresenting the script by no less than Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogiesand Hairspray), with music by Jerry Herman (Hello Dolly and Mame), withprofessional precision.

Peppered with a terrific supporting cast,the show has no weak links. Henry Reisingeras Francis, the harried stage manager, is very amusing , especially as the loveinterest of the leggy dominatrix Phaedre, skillfully played by J. Krastel, oneof the chorus of performers at La Cage known as ‘The Cagelles” (more on thegirls later). Amanda Dixon is lovely asJean-Michel’s intended, Anne. Obviouslya dancer, she is graceful and engaging. And James Hunnicutt and Kristen Cooley playing the uptight politician andhis demurring wife are both in fine form. Nadine Wellington is in fine formas Jacqueline, proprietress of a fashionable restaurant.

As for the leads, Randy Dunkel asJean-Michel is rather more laconic than the usual interpretation of therole. But for him, it works. He has a fine sense of timing, unaffectedgestures, and don’t even get me startedon the glorious voice. ‘With Anne On MyArm’ is delivered with a lovely earnestness. And the reprise of ‘Look OverThere’ was one of those ‘aww..’ moments. I did wish that he displayed a bitmore emotion while asking his ‘stepmother’ to help him impress Anne by notbeing there, lest she and her family suspect the truth about hisbackground. J. Jeffrey Harris has someshining moments as Jacob, the ‘maid’. Hesimpers and purrs his way throughout in fine, vaudevillian form. In animpressive array of costumes, he minces and whines to great effect.

And those Cagelles! The colorful coterie of Drag Queens twist andtwirl, shimmy and sashay, working their tarted-up buns off, dancing and singingup a bugle-bead slinging storm. From theopening number We Are What We Are, to the title song and through the finale,they decorate the stage like shimmering baubles. Tom Wyatt’s choreography suits this chorus toa tee. He knows exactly when to let themoff the leash and makes sure to match every t-strapped step to the bestabilities of the girls. Great touch thatthe director has them actually doing the scene changes as part of theaction.

But it is the chemistry between the twomain characters, Albin (Zsa Zsa) and George that drives the show. Their relationship, love and support for eachother is so wonderfully portrayed by Edward J. Peters as Albin/Zsa-Zsa and JeffBurch as George that it is a joy to see. When George sings Song on the Sand, Albinnever takes his eyes off him. When theydance together in With You On My Arm, their playfulness is wonderful towatch. Jeff Burch’s George is a perfect,calm counterpoint to the histrionics of his partner, the high-strung divaAlbin. He is the voice of reason and thetrue moral compass of the piece. With astrong tenor voice, great timing, and surprising dance skills, he holds his ownin every scene with the more bombastic Albin.

Edward J. Peters’s Albin/Zsa-Zsa isnothing less than a force of nature. Peters is a throwback to the days when actresses and actors were stars. He shows his vulnerability in the opening lyrics of ALittle More Mascara. His fiercedetermination to never be defined by the world or anyone in it in theself-affirming gay anthem, I Am What I Am, issoul-stirring. The surprising baritoneof his voice hits every note perfectly. Truly a wonder to watch.

This outing of La Cage Aux Folles is never less than engaging, frequentlyexhilarating, and always fun. And that,my dears, is what makes great theatre. So put on a little mascara, girdle your rears, and get ready for somepure entertainment. I am what I am andwhat I am is extremely happy this bit of glamour is on view in ourcommunity.

La Cage aux Folles
Through May 11, 2014
Dundalk Community Theatre— College of Baltimore Countyin Building K, at the John E. Ravekes Theatre
7200 Sollers Point Rd.
For tickets, call the box office at (443) 840-2787, or purchasethem online

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