Monday, July 30, 2012

'Open your eyes' and welcome to La Cage ...

Title : La Cage aux Folles
By : Wild Rice Productions
Venue : Esplanade Theatre, Singapore
Date : Sunday, 29th July 2012
Time : 3pm

I have been waiting for La Cage for weeks. I booked my dates on the first day that the tickets were released to the public. It was going to be Wild Rice’s “headline” production for 2012 and Ivan Heng was in it. Not just directing or producing but having a lead role in it. The last I saw Ivan acting was in “Emily on Emerald Hill” and that was more than a year ago. In the days since ‘opening night,’ reviews have been coming hard and fast. All reviewers had nothing but glowing accolades in their reviews. Standing-ovations after every show !! So now I am faced with this problem .. after watching it so close to “final show” .. how can I make my review seem relevant and not repeat what all the reviewers have been saying … let me try ..

Firstly, I have not seen the original La Cage at Broadway but I have seen the movie adaptation of “Birdcage” which starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. It was a very memorable movie and it really opened my eyes into the colourful and extravagant world of drag and homosexuality. Mind you that was in 1996. In “Birdcage (the movie),” the chemistry between Robin Williams and Nathan Lane was excellent. I wondered how Ivan and Eusoff would blend together considering I do not think they have done much together but yet are very distinguished actors in their own right (and own country). Boy oh boy .. the chemistry was magical !!

The set of La Cage was beautiful with many bright lights and a great use of the whole depth of the stage to create an illusion of space. I felt like I was magically transported to a “cabaret show” during the “showtime” scenes. There was also very clever use of sets to create the living room / powder room / sidewalk / restaurant parts. The costumes were also dazzling and created a greater atmosphere especially those worn by Ivan and the Cagelles.

The Cagelles were very good in their dance routines especially during the “burlesque” routine with the chairs. That was wonderful. They seemed so graceful … twirling around performing cartwheel after cartwheel .. ending in splits all over the place .. ALL IN HEELS !!!!! I can just imagine the amount of hard training they had to undergo to perfect those various dance segments.

The cast of La Cage was star-studded. The main leads were of course Ivan Heng and Tony Eusoff. Major supporting cast included Hossan Leong, Aaron Khaled, Tan Kheng Hua and Seong Hui Xuan. Other cast members were Darius, Karen and Judee (all ‘Tan’s), Andrew Lua and Brendon Fernandez.

 Ivan Heng and Tony Eusoff really blew me away. Their on-stage chemistry was flawless and they made all other cast members just fade away. We have all of course heard and seen Ivan in action and would expect an excellent performance out of him. As for Tony, I have been privileged to see him perform in KL several years ago and he is one of the brightest star in Malaysia theatre. I have several friends in Malaysia who would just swoon whenever his name is mentioned. He can act and he has a rich and beautiful singing voice. Of course it also helps that he is very ‘kacak (malay for good-looking).’ I hope he does more collaboration with Wild Rice so that we Singapore viewers can see more of him. In La Cage he showed his full repertoire. He sang happy boisterous songs, a heartfelt serenade (with a French undertone) and a really soulful piece which brought tears to my eyes.

Ivan was yet again fantastic in his roles as “ZaZa,” as a “mother” and as a “male figure.” His singing was again beautiful and moving especially in his “solo” song .. all alone right in the middle of the stage before breaking down. You could see many in the audience reaching for their tissues at that point. My funniest moment was when Ivan came out and spoke as if introducing a show .. his comments about “needing money to promote his musical career in US” really hit home !!! At the end, when he walked out … all clad in white .. the look on his face as he looked at Tony .. could melt the hardest of rocks !!!

It was all the scenes with Ivan and Tony together which really swept me away. It was as though they were really lovers .. so natural … so non-fussed .. so carefree.

Hossan provided many of the laughs in his role as the butler / maid. Aaron Khaled to me seemed a bit subdued and held back. He could have been a bit more expressive. Tan Kheng Hua was her usual chirpy self however she seemed a bit strained as well. Hui Xuan played her part well .. her dance scene with Aaron was her major scene and she was very graceful. (I have commented in my earlier review of Spring Awakenings about how she stood out as someone to watch for the future) All the others played their minor, cameo roles fairly well.

As mentioned above, the problem (a good problem I guess) is that in the presence of Ivan and Tony working together so flawlessly, everyone else is just there to add that slight amount of “frosting” to an already delectable slice of cake.

I really urge all of you to watch this. The show must end this coming Saturday (4th August 2012) For those who loved it .. heck .. watch it again. I am trying to find time in my schedule to watch it again. .. watch it and ‘open your eyes’ … see how beautiful love can be between two men … at the very least … watch it and enjoy how wonderful our local theatre can be … you will be amazed .. we have our own “Robin Williams” and “Nathan Lane.”

Wild Rice … you did it again .. you truly deserve your accolades …

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nicholas!

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed your time at La Cage. :) I am Haswani, publicist for W!LD RICE. I am excited to get in touch and keep you in the loop for W!LD RICE productions. Would you be able to drop a hello at, and i'd be happy to send you more updates i.e. upcoming Hansel & Gretel pantomime press release & details...etc?

    Hope to hear from you! And thanks again for your continued support towards W!LD RICE productions! Keep in touch :)

    Best regards,