Tag: Gary Sweet

REVIEW: The Production Company’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

A little more mascara

By Ross Larkin

La Cage Au Folles began as a play in the 70’s by Jean Poiret until it was later remodelled into a musical by Jerry Herman. In 1996, Hollywood created the well-known film version, renaming it The Birdcage. Melbourne’s The Production Company last night opened their version of the musical at The Arts Centre, with Todd McKenney and Simon Burke as gay lovers Albin and Georges and a familiar supporting cast including Rhonda Burchmore, Gary Sweet and Marg Downey.

La Cage Au Folles - Todd McKenney and Les Cagelles

When Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino) announces his engagement to Anne (Emily Milledge), matters accelerate to hysterical at the prospect of his fiance’s highly conservative and political parents (Sweet and Downey) coming over to meet Jean-Michel’s family.

Decidedly flamboyant transvestite Albin is deemed by Jean-Michel too risky and controversial to meet Anne’s parents and is advised to make himself scarce for the evening. When Jean-Michel’s birth mother fails to show, Albin steps in in all his convincing drag glory under the pretence of being mother himself, and hilarity ensues.

As with any famous and celebrated show, there are unavoidable audience expectations. In the case of La Cage Au Folles, it is safe to assume that giant laughs, flashy songs, spectacular dancing and tremendous energy are all somewhat anticipated.

Regretfully, The Production Company only gently hit the mark, waxing and waning in pace and stamina. The occasional musical number is quite impressive while too many others are underwhelming and forgettable.

The two leads are undoubtedly well performed, with McKenney in particular delivering much of the needed laughs and glamour, and Aljin Abella as the butler a consistent source of humour and force.

However, director Dean Bryant’s decision to merge La Cage Au Folles into pantomime territory with actors speaking to and interacting with the audience for extended periods (presumably to cover costume changes) was an ill-fated one, breaking from the struggling momentum even further.

Sweet as Anne’s father might have looked the part but was typically miscast, yelling every line with farcical irritation and further contributing to the pantomime domain. Downey and Burchmore were reliably enjoyable but sadly appeared all too briefly.

Essentially, Bryant and The Production Company have found most of the ingredients necessary to make La Cage Au Folles the dazzling spectacle it deserves to be, however, its current state feels underbaked, in need of increased pace, energy, stakes and more bold choreography.

La Cage Au Folles is playing at The Arts Centre Playhouse, Melbourne, until December 7, Wednesday-Sunday at 7.30pm and Tuesday December 2 at 7.30pm, with 2pm matinees each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings 1300 182 183 or visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au


 Leave the kids at home…

By Bradley Storer

This year Trevor Ashley brings his naughty and controversial adults-only pantomime Little Orphan Trashley to town as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. The show, an unofficial rip off of the musical Annie, is the sort of light-hearted family show that you would never bring your kids to.

Rhonda Burchmore as Miss Trannigan, the alcoholic and lascivious matron of the orphanage, effortlessly steals every scene she appears in, boozing, crooning and flashing her fabulous legs to great campy effect. Her songs are overall the best in the show, and an act two duet with Ashley is quite probably the best one of the night. Rhys Bobridge in the role of little Fannie’s pet dog (whose name is unprintable here) combines sex appeal – wait until you see his outfit! – with a cuddliness and comic timing that make his every moment onstage gleefully naughty. His first entrance had the audience in hysterics for what seemed like a full minute!

Little Orphan Trashley

Gary Sweet gets big laughs as a pajama-clad Prologue introducing us to the story, but as Daddy Warhorse a lot of his lines fall flat. He lacks the singing ability to bring off his musical number in Act One but does a better job in selling a delightfully dirty number in Act Two.

The problem is that the writing and the story are simply not engaging enough to hold the audience’s interest for the length of the show. The best parts (usually involving Burchmore or Bobridge) usually have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, so when Ashley and Sweet step forward to get the story moving again it feels like the laughs cease – in particular, an attempt to integrate recent controversy about child pornography in art into the story comes across as quite creepy (and not in the good way!). The jokes came hard and fast throughout, and there are many up-to-date references (including to Rudd’s recent disposal of Julia Gillard) which is a credit to the creative team in their efforts to keep the script fresh and relevant. However, even with this the success rate is still only fifty-fifty for the entire night, with a few precise zingers as exceptions, despite the commitment of the cast to the material.

Ashley himself does not shine with the glowing stage presence of a star, but seems like a low-key supporting character in the plot – which is hard to understand given he has more stage time, dialogue and songs than anyone in the cast. There was no moment in the show where I felt Ashley was given a chance to show off his full power and range as singer or performer, which was disappointing as in previous works he has been fantastic!

Venue: The Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Date: Thurs 4 to Sun 7 July then continuing on after the Festival until Sunday 14 July

Price: A Reserve $75, B Reserve $60

Time: Tue 7:00pm, Wed – Fri 8:00pm, Sat 6.30pm & 9.30pm, Sun 5:00pm

Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au , (03) 9299 9800, at the venue