Federn fly in the Bernd Mottl-directed German-language adaptation of La Cage aux Folles, the musical, running at Bar Jeder Vernunft through May 31.
Even the homos will inevitably say in a dinner theatre setting, “Oh god, this is sooo gay.” Places like Palazzo and Bar Jeder Vernunft with set-ups akin to circus tents decorated by Sir Ian McKellen are no exception. So it’s somehow fitting that the well-known tale of La Cage aux Folles would take advantage of the setting of Bar Jeder Vernunft. You can’t actually get any gayer.
The story of a gay couple and their nightclub, the titular La Cage aux Folles, the plot is carried by the (only somewhat) more sober Georges. Georges heads up the nightclub as well as his family, involving everyone from his “butler”, to Albin/Zaza (his husband), to his biological son. When straight son Jean-Michel announces he wants to marry the daughter of a notable conservative politician and they are coming for dinner, Georges has to put the birds back in the cage, most notably flamboyant husband Albin/Zaza. A familiar tale made famous by a notably successful French film adaptation which made an international splash, the Broadway stage musical and then once-more-over by the less overwhelming American film remake.
But without Georges’ to-a-point almost bumbling persona, only betrayed by his obvious success and his ability to solve all the problems he himself creates, there would be no Cage. No story. The part has always required a mix of the straight man, without actually being straight – a role made harder when you layer the musical element on top of an already high camp embankment – and Peter Rühring, known internationally for roles in The English Patient and Bandits, flies well with the role, guiding his flock through with style.
The role one always associates with La Cage – Albin – was expertly taken care of by Hannes Fischer. As the star drag queen forced to do man drag to appease the conservative couple entering Georges and Albins lives by way of the children, Fischer plays his gender trouble with more elegant charm and confusion than some of the film portrayals (ahem, Nathan Lane) and slips from Tunte to man to upright housewife and back again with grace.
Once you settle into the roundtable surroundings, the birds are ready to fly, taking advantage of circular arrangements from not just the stage, but also all the way to the centre of the hall and the pathways encircling the center and bordering the outer Loges. From the stage outwards the play functions to take place all around, as if you are in a nightclub. The opening number has The Cagelles, four dancers in drag, appear on a stage flagged by two golden Adonises with giant hard-ons and if one didn’t know better, that could be a show in and of itself.
While the musical numbers obfuscate best the difference between viewer as theatre-audience and viewer as nightclub audience, La Cage is not one musical number after another… set changes from the nightclub to Georges and Albin’s apartment to a beach remind us of an overarching story narrative and there’s plenty of the punny and gay dialogue stemming from the French version to not turn this into The Triplets of Belleville.
The whole production is backed up with the talented help of live band “Die Travestie-Künstler des La Cage aux Folles”, seamlessly bringing the acts together while maintaining the illusion that we, the audience, sit in La Cage aux Folles.
Bar Jeder Vernunft isn’t a Schaubühne – no deconstructivist theatre deliberately trying to provoke an audience – or the HAU of yore – bringing great cult superstars to the stage giving theatre a pop edge – but the venue found a production proper for them in La Cage aux Folles: with stage potential maximised, a talented live band, extremely well-put together costumes (particularly The Cagelles) and a cast that is having a lot of fun with the production.
La Cage aux Folles, March 1 through May 31 | Bar Jeder Vernunft