When La Cage Aux Folles came out early this year, it barely came on my radar. I was aware of it, yes, but I had no intention of watching it. I'm not very interested in drag queens, aside from the occasional episode of RuPaul. Luckily, I was able to see what I was missing out on.
La Cage Aux Folles, done by 9 Works Theatrical, is as what one of their lines say: gaudy and grand. In a good way.
The production is a visual spectacle with over-the-top hair, clothing and make-up: There were a lot of glittering sequins which, while not to my taste, were very interesting to look at. Oddly enough, my favorite thing to look at was not the dresses, but the wigs. It's not often you see that volume, those shapes and colors, in this day and age. I think that if you like wigs and/or pageantry, you'd like this. There was also a fair bit of dancing, stunts that were physically demanding, and even a very tiny bit of ballet. Don't expect the skill of a dedicated troupe, but my eyes had their fill.
My ears, not so much. As usual, the sound system was horrible and the orchestra was small. Jacob and Georges (played by Steven Silva and Michael De Mesa), shared similar problems in breathiness and blending. Fortunately, this was offset by Audie Gemora's Albin.
Gemora's performance of the lead role was amazing. He sang quite well, even in falsetto. But what I like best is his acting: Gemora plays a transwoman (?) with De Mesa as husband and Jacob as son. On stage, Gemora carried himself superbly: As Albin, he was not just a man in drag, but a woman in a man's body. While De Mesa lends a certain something to the stage, Gemora is undoubtedly the star of the show. He draws the eye with his mannerisms, his emotion - and through him, into the story.
The story of La Cage Aux Folles is generally quite simple, yet I found myself drawn in. While I was mostly entertained - with a special mention of the strange antics of the maid- there was a part of me that became involved in the narrative. This was partly because of the nature of the themes of the story -love, family, discrimination- and partly because Gemora's Albin was both larger than life and yet so very human. I think that I'd recommend watching this just for Gemora's performance alone. Both role and performance is something I see rarely.
While this shows a lot of men in drag, it's about more than that. And you'll have to see it to believe it.
La Cage Aux Folles will be running this August-September 2015 at RCBC plaza in Makati.
(?) SPOILERS. Albin calls himself a transexual. However, he constantly refers to himself as a he and homosexual, separate from his drag identity. However, his actions and role outside his drag identity are very feminine, and he even refers to himself as his son's mother. Albin could be a drag queen and an effeminate homosexual male or a heterosexual transwoman.