Last weekend, a rare phenomenon occurred at the Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs (PCT). It’s a case where the technical aspects and the ensemble performers of a production are unintentionally upstaging or are shining brighter than the principal actors in the show. In the Palm Canyon Theatre production of “La Cage Aux Folles”, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and a libretto by Harvey Fierstein, director Steve Fisher is working overtime to bring all the disparate elements of staging a large cast (twenty-seven performers) musical farce together for his audience.
Let’s just chalk up last Sunday’s rough show to opening weekend jitters. The usually solid staging of past shows by Fisher, an award-winning performer and director, is not up to his usual high standards.
The musical based on a French play of the same name and the movie “The Birdcage”, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, is not about plot, it’s about character, and the absurd logic of screwball comedy. For those unfamiliar with the story it focuses on a gay couple: Georges (Timm McBride) manager of a St. Tropez drag entertainment night club and Albin, (Kam Sisco) Georges’ romantic life partner and star performer Zaza.
Farcical adventures ensue when Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Sebastian Smith) brings home his fiancée Anne (Alllegra Angelo) and her ultra conservative parents to meet Georges and his “wife”. It’s all silliness along with over-the-top performances, but, if one goes with the flow, one will walk out of the theatre humming a few clever lyrics from the musical’s signature song “I Am What I Am” sung by Albin.
The ensemble cast is full of energy and score in all their numbers as the “ladies” of the chorus and include: Larry Martin, Ben Reece, Matthew Ryan, Giancarlo Molina, Jose Esparza, and Robbie Wayne.
The set design by Bruce Weber is colorful and glitzy-looking, and his costume designs sparkle for Zaza and are spot-on for the sequined chorus and ensemble performers. Musical Direction by Don Kelley, however, is disappointing in his choice of a tinny-sounding synthesizer to carry the music load. But the choreography of Daryl J. Roth shines. It is both showy and clever and well executed by the dancers. The sound and music by James Hiyashi, however, is played too loud and competes with instead of complementing the singers, and it also appears that the “sound bugs” have returned with this production (sound-popping mikes along with late light cues and stage curtains getting caught up are signs of not enough rehearsal time). But all that happened last weekend.
“La Cage Aux Folles” performs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Palm Canyon Theatre through May 24, 2015. Call 760-323-5023 for ticket information.