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reviewed by Adam Crowe

The 2017-2018 Season kicks off at Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI) with the brilliant La Cage Aux Folles. This Tony Award winner was written by the great Jerry Herman, (Hello Dolly and Mame) with a book by Harvey Fierstein, and is based on a French farce by Jean Poiret. Many will be most familiar with the story through the American film version, The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Familiarity with the movie is neither required nor a hindrance to enjoying this Farce. ATI’s production transports you to the South of France and tells its story with gusto and sass, and reflects the remarkable artistry of director Larry Raben (a Carmel native) and his accomplished choreographer, Carol Worcel.

Bill Book as Georges, Judy Fitzgerald as Jacqueline and Don Farrell as Albin

From left: Bill Book as Georges, Judy Fitzgerald as Jacqueline, and Don Farrell as Albin in ATI’s “La Cage aux Folles”.

When this story first appeared in film, it felt edgy and subversive. I wondered if it would hold up, given the march of social progress over the past thirty years. No worries! “La Cage” holds up beautifully. In fact, the very traditional structure and conflicts of the story are even more accessible. The age old premise of young love complicated by parental interference is tweaked by a boy with two gay parents and a girl with a politically ambitious father. Jean-Michel (a sweet Sean Haynes) may have two “Dads”, but the rest of the obstacles faced on the way to marry his love (a wonderful Devan Mathias) are easily recognizable.

Michael Humphrey, Greg Grimes, Tim Hunt, Kenny Shepard and Don Farrell - photo credit - Zach Rosing

From left: Michael Humphrey, Greg Grimes, Kenny Shepard, and Tim Hunt are Les Cagelles with Don Farrell as Zaza in ATI’s a Cage aux Folles”

Bill Book and Don Farrell play Georges and Albin, the young groom’s parents. They are, in turns, hilarious and heartbreaking, and both of their performances are terrific. Still, Hermann has made sure that the show belongs to Farrell’s Albin, and he is the Star of this vehicle. Whether he is flirting with the Club’s clientele as Zaza or blubbering as Albin, Farrell is simply perfection. To anyone who saw him play Sweeny Todd or the Baker in Into the Woods, this comes as no surprise. Farrell is a joy to watch.

Sean Haynes as Jean-Michel and Devan Mathias as Anne - photo credit - Zach Rosing

Sean Haynes as Jean-Michel and Devan Mathias as Anne in ATI’s “La Cage aux Folles”

Superb support is provided by the rest of the cast, many of whom play multiple roles, including Ken Klingenmeier and Maryjane Waddell who play café owners and later appear as a self-righteous politician and his less rigid wife. John Vessels is, as always, delightful in a number of roles, and ATI co-founder Judy Fitzgerald is delicious as gal pal Jacqueline. In what is likely to be his last Indiana stage performance for a while, Daniel Klingler is a riot as George and Albin’s butler/maid/sight gag. Klingler moves his career to NYC soon, and his performance gives him a terrific and hilarious send-off. As Les Cagelle’s, Tim Hunt, Kenny Shepard, Greg Grimes and Michael Humphrey bring dazzle to the cabaret at the center of the story. They will leave you wanting more!

Ken Klingenmeier as M. Dindon and MaryJayne Waddell as Mme. Dindon - photo credit - Zach Rosing

Ken Klingenmeier as Deputy Dindon and MaryJayne Waddell as Mme. Dindon in ATI’s “La Cage aux Folles”

On the technical side, Bernie Killian’s set, Zach Rosing’s sound, Aaron Bowersox’s lighting, and Stephen Hollenbeck’s costumes are all first rate. The musical direction of Levi Burke is right on point, and Daniel Klinger’s does double-duty as designer of some beautiful hair and make-up. Finally, as I have come to expect, the ATI orchestra was just perfect.

ATI Cage1

Daniel Klingler as Jacob (photo left) and Kenny Shepard (left) as Hanna with John Vessels as Francis in ATI’s “La Cage aux Folles”

La Cage Aux Folles only runs until October 1st, so move quickly to get your tickets. I expect that the sell-out on Opening Night is a harbinger of things to come!

Actors Theatre of Indiana is located in The Studio Theatre at the Center for The Performing Arts in Carmel. Tickets may be purchased by visiting the website at atistage.org or by calling (317) 843-3800. Shows are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $45.00, with discounts on Wednesdays and for all performances for students and seniors. 

  • – photos by Zach Rosing

 

 

 

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