LOOK OVER THERE AT THE FABULOUS AND FLAMBOYANT "LA CAGE AUX FOLLES"


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Who is a mother? The woman who gives birth to you and then abandons you, rarely to be seen again or the man who wipes your brow when you are ill with fever and is there every day faithfully by your side? For Jean-Michel, the question becomes critical when, at the age of 24 years, he announces his engagement to the delightful Anne. Her father is the head of the "Tradition, Family and Morality Party," a conservative political party dedicated to the goal of closing all drag nightclubs. Since Jean-Michel's "parents," Georges the owner and master of ceremonies and Albin, the flamboyant transvestite star "Zaza," are intimately involved in that targeted enterprise, there are bound to be fireworks when the two prospective sets of in-laws meet.

Be prepared to jump aboard the merry-go-round that is "La Cage aux Folles," which literally means "the cage of mad women," parading across the stage of Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam. Already extended to Thursday, September 10, this "gay" production enjoys a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Come to Saint-Tropez for the grand and gaudy adventure, with enough glamour and glitz to light up a third world country.

When Jean-Michel (Conor Ryan) comes home with his good news, he urges his father Georges (James Lloyd Reynolds) to tell his "mother"Albin to absent himself from the family home. He also wants the apartment redecorated in a pious manner, even though it will still be pink, and asks their butler Jacob (Cedric Leiba, Jr.), who considers himself the maid, to tone down his outrageous persona. Thankfully, Jacob doesn't really listen.

The dedicated Albin ( the wonderful Jamison Stern) is understandably hurt by Jean-Michel's attitude but reluctantly agrees to appear as a macho "Uncle Al" to assuage his feelings. The arrival of sweet Anne (Kristen Martin), her agreeable mother (Stacey Scotte) and her staid and starched father (Mark Zimmerman) set the stage for riotous rockets and colorful explosions worthy of a Fourth of July.

Timeless tunes like "I Am What I Am," "With Anne on My Arm," "The Best of Times," "Look Over There" and "La Cage aux Folles" ring out in splendor as do the numerous dance numbers choreographed by Ralph Perkins, executed by the statuesque Les Cagelles who are dressed to the nines in feathers and fur, sequins and satin by Michael McDonald. Rob Ruggiero has outdone himself in this wildly tender musical of love, understanding and forgiveness.

For tickets ($27 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals on the Connecticut River in East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (and selected 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (and selected 6:30 p.m.).

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