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Theater review: Lovely ballads, colorful cabaret in 'La Cage aux Folles'

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 7:20 p.m. MDT

Kenny Wayne Parrish as Zaza, and Dave Hanson as Georges in the Grand Theatre production of "La Cage aux Folles" (Steve Fidel) Kenny Wayne Parrish as Zaza, and Dave Hanson as Georges in the Grand Theatre production of "La Cage aux Folles" (Steve Fidel)

“LA CAGE AUX FOLLES,” The Grand Theatre, through May 25, $10-$24, 801-957-3322 or the-grand.org

“Mame,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “La Cage aux Folles.”

Most likely you’re familiar with two of these three Jerry Herman musicals, either from the popular film adaptations or stage productions. The Broadway luminary composed similarly hummable songs for “La Cage aux Folles,” a little-seen Tony Award-winning hit being performed at the Grand Theatre. It’s a showcase for his lovely ballads, and the high-energy, colorful cabaret sequences get your pulse racing.

A Jerry Herman song personifies “show tune.” While as influential as the giants of musical theater, Herman’s shows didn’t break new ground, but almost single-handedly he extended the Golden Age of Broadway, with ebullient, optimistic and deceivingly simple compositions.

The “La Cage aux Folles” plot, familiar through the Robin Williams-Nathan Lane film “The Birdcage,” focuses on nightspot owner Georges (David Hanson) and partner Albin (Kenneth Wayne), who performs as Zaza in the club. Georges’ grown son, Jean-Michel (Logan Tarantino), is about to marry, and a culture clash is set in motion when his fiancée’s conservative family meets Jean-Michel’s.

Wayne is best able to bring the full measure of joy to his superstar character. His “The Best of Times” is thrilling, and he combines vulnerability and defiance in the proudly sung first-act finale, “I Am What I Am.” He can also pull it back for a quiet and touching “Mascara.” Hanson gives a modest performance as Georges. His “Song in the Sand” is not particularly demanding vocally, and he strives to add emotion to the lovely ballad. The big notes sound strained in “Look Over There,” a tender, gorgeous song nonetheless.

Darla Davis plays Jacqueline, the vain restaurateur next door. She is an impressive comedienne actress in each of her roles, and she is a refreshing presence in this smallish part. David Guy Holmes confidently plays the over-the-top maid/butler Jacob.

While he isn’t always able to maintain a steady pace with the action as director, Brent Schneider shows his strength as a choreographer with the eight Cagelles in the nightclub dances.

On at least two occasions during the show, my theater guest leaned over and asked, “Did that song come from this show?” A number of the songs in this Herman show are breakout hits, entering the American Songbook as standards. “La Cage aux Folles” is a worthy addition to the classics of musical theater, and it too deserves to be filmed as a big and glitzy MGM-style production.

Content advisory: mild profanities

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