Everything is going swimmingly for partners George and Albin. They own a posh drag queen club in the beautiful French Riviera town of St. Tropez and their relationship is as strong as ever.
But that all changes when George’s son, Jean-Michel, shows up for dinner and announces his engagement to the daughter of an ultra-conservative French politician.
That’s the basis behind Schmooze Productions latest theatre show, La Cage aux Folles, which will make its debut on Thursday (May 8) at Nanaimo Centre Stage.
“It is a really heartwarming, fun show with great characters and hilarious scenes,” director and artistic producer Dean Chadwick said. “This is a really entertaining piece of theatre that people will be laughing until it hurts and maybe even crying a little bit. It’s a great, well-rounded piece of theatre that is accessible to everybody and yet, naughty enough for a few people.”
La Cage aux Folles was originally written by Jean Poiret in 1973 and made its Broadway debut in 1983. The production received multiple awards, including a Tony Award for Best Musical in 1984. The production was eventually revived in 2010 after the script received an update.
The Schmooze Productions version of La Cage aux Folles will feature local actors Rob Atkinson (George) and Rick Meyers (Albin), who is best known as Miss Vicky, and Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley (Edouard Dindon).
“He’s a fantastic guy and so incredibly talented,” Chadwick said about Myers. “It’s nice to get him not playing Miss Vicky and playing a different role and he’s really fantastic at it.”
Routley, who is a member of the New Democratic Party, takes on the role of an ultra-conservative right-wing politician and the father of Jean-Michel’s fiancee. Chadwick said that although Routley has been challenged by some of the moral beliefs of his character, he has embraced the role.
“When I am talking to him and giving him casting notes I’ll say to him, ‘OK Doug, I want you to think about the guys you sit across the table from because those are who I want you to portray’,” Chadwick said, laughing. “He’s actually had a lot of great fun because it is fun to play someone who is so unlike you. He is such a sweetheart of a guy and to play this kind of button-down character, he’s done really well, but I can see he has been challenged by it and yet he’s lived up to the challenge and the role.”
While La Cage touches on a handful of themes, with the most obvious about homosexual issues, Chadwick stresses that the production’s basic story is as old as time.
“It’s interesting because really the whole thing behind the show is, it is just a love story. It just happens to take place in the club of a drag show,” Chadwick said. “That’s really it. The setting is the drag show and the gay family but the stories themselves have been around forever.”
One of the driving factors behind Schmooze Productions electing to produce La Cage aux Folles was due to the recent anti-homosexual stance by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“It’s timely. Certainly with the Russian Olympics [Sochi 2014], we saw, and still even in this day, the adverse reaction to gay marriage or even gay people in general. You know, it is just not right in our society anymore,” Chadwick said. “Being in the theatre, we have lots of friends in the theatre who are gay and it was to say, ‘You know what? These are normal families and they are really fantastic and loving and important people.’”
Chadwick said the aim of the production is for people to walk away impressed with the play, but not just because it touches on issues surrounding homosexuality.
“I don’t want them leaving thinking, ‘Oh, that was a great play about gay marriage.’ I want them to go away thinking, ‘Wow that was a great show about a family.’”
La Cage aux Folles runs May 8-31 at Nanaimo Centre Stage. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.schmoozeproductions.com.