Sieber steals the show (with style and class) in Toronto’s latest Mirvish theatre installment, La Cage aux Folles
Here I will admit: there can never be too many La Cage aux Folles revivals for me. I greeted the news of its spot in the Mirvish season with a somewhat undignified noise, and when the time came to bid for shows to review here at Mooney On Theatre, you can bet I was waving my hand wildly in classic keener style. La Cage is, in my opinion, a truly great musical and I love it like an old friend.
But you know sometimes, how your beloved old friend takes up with someone you really don’t think is that good for her? Someone who diminishes her in some basic, ineluctable way? Sorry, George Hamilton, but I think maybe you and my sweet La Cage should go your separate ways.
On the other hand, Christopher Sieber (as Albin in this production, more or less fresh from playing Georges on Broadway) is one of the best things to ever happen to this show. I do not even feel like I have enough adjectives to describe the myriad ways in which I adore him as Albin, but oh, they are many indeed. And as the show turns on our willingness to identify with Albin, a great Albin – as Seiber is – means the production will succeed, as this one does, in spite of George Hamilton.
I understand that Hamilton is supposed to be the Name here, but I really cannot say he has the chops for this part. I found him wooden and unappealing as Georges; given a character with the potential for a lot of subtle depth, he seems to be more-or-less reciting the words and flashing his famous smile at intervals. Though, I will say, his John Wayne impression had a certain verve. Perhaps he could get work that way.
I would be happy to rave on at length about Christopher Seiber: how generous an actor is in a role built for scene-stealing, how crisp and precise his physical comedy is, how his solo I Am What I Am at the end of the first act sent tingles up the back of my neck. But perhaps a few more comments about the show are in order.
Beyond the regrettable Hamilton, the show is quite well cast. Torontonian sweetheart Jeigh Madjus as maid Jacob is full of things in all the best ways. His spry, sardonic presence, played with just a hint of bitterness, casts Sieber’s sweetness as Albin into relief and allows us to like them both even more.
The Cagettes are certainly lovely and talented, though I wasn’t delighted by the casting decision to cast Cagettes that scream “man in a dress!” There are certainly flocks of drag queens in the world who are far more feminine in form, full of grace and beauty and skill, but my sense is that someone responsible for casting felt that audiences in the apocryphal Peoria would need to see at first glance that these are, indeed, drag performers. See their biceps! Behold their majestic Adam’s apples! It’s not what I would have chosen.
Also not what I would have chosen, whatever horror of lighting/makeup mashup that caused the darker-skinned Cagettes to appear as though their faces had been caked in some feature-erasing monotone mud. Really, nobody needs that much St. Tropez realness.
However, in the category of things I would choose again and again: Lili Whiteass, our dragstress with the mostest opening the show. Okay, some of the lines she snaps off are as old as George Hamilton, like when she chided a late arrival with “what did your ticket say? Sevenish?” but she carries it off with such classic cabaret style, while mixing in Toronto-local and current event banter. Hats off to you, honey.
All in all? If you love La Cage aux Folles, go see Christopher Seiber be magic, magic, magic. If you’ve never seen it, what are you waiting for? And if you’ve never liked it, you might well find this Sieber-anchored production changes your mind.
La Cage Aux Folles plays at the Royal Alexandria Theatre, 260 King Street West through November 18th.
Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm, with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.
Tickets range in price from $35 to $130 and can be had by online at mirvish.com or by calling the Mirvish box office, 416.872.1212