John Partridge who plays Albin as his stage persona Zaza

La Cage Aux Folles

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre


Harvey Feirstein’s sumptuous telling of what is quite a simple message may not have quite the shock value it had when it first opened back in 1983, but it remains a glorious piece of life affirming theatre.

Essentially, it’s all about acceptance. We are, as the song says, what we are - warts, or in this case tassles - and all. Acceptance and diversity are powerful themes and are no strangers to mainstream musical theatre.

Religion hampered integration in Fiddler On The Roof. Gang allegiance did the same in West Side Story. Same challenge, different format.

Theatrically, it works a treat. Its setting in a French Riviera drag club in St Tropez immediately offers a riot of colour and panache that can’t fail to lift the spirits.

Drag routines are the epitome of glamour and there are generous portions of that throughout the show. Jerry Herman’s score mixes genuine pathos with anthemic show stoppers - most as strong as I Am What I Am - the song most of us associate with the show. The camp essentials are all there; the illuminated staircase; the numerous costume and wig changes; and  the toe tapping routines.

It is, of course, a lot more than a revue. Behind and between the rouge and razzmatazz, there lie strong and well defined themes that actually matter long after the footlights have faded.

Love is ever present. Love between two men. Love between father and son. Love between boy and girl – perhaps the most conventional on show but no different in its sincerity.

George and Albin

Adrian Zmed as George and John Partridge as Albin 

The benefits of open mindedness feature too. In this case, can a traditional, straight minded father ever accept his daughter marrying into an openly gay family? It’s an important question and one that is beautifully handled here.

Alongside the high energy routines, there are some lovely comedy moments. Trying to get a character to be more ‘masculine’ by imitating John Wayne is beautifully observed. John Partridge as Albin borders on Panto Dame with his audience interaction. A master class of timing and delivery.

Adrian Zmed‘s George brings a more restrained compliment to Partridge’s often screamingly camp Aldin. Their relationship is tender and believable. A couple who are clearly meant for each other.

John Partridge shines as Albin. Funny, sincere and engaging throughout. It’s all about presence and Partridge has it in spades.

Looking around the mainly female audience, a handful of men were dotted around - dragged in (no pun intended } perhaps by their partners. By the end, they were standing and clapping with gusto. Testament indeed to the power of the message.

La Cage Aux Folles runs until Saturday 1July. Grab your feather boa and get yourself a ticket. You won’t be disappointed.

Tom Roberts


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