‘Too outrageous for words’: HART lands another smash hit with ‘The Bird Cage’

art frBy Shannan Mashburn • SMN Intern

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville will bring the French Rivera to life with its blockbuster summer musical “La Cage aux Folles.”

HART is taking a gamble with this play, which is among the more daring shows it has staged. Then again, HART has never been one to hold back.

“Every year, we try to push the envelope and do things no one else will try,” said Steven Lloyd, the executive director of HART and the director of “La Cage aux Folles. “We like doing things nobody else does. This is something other theaters in the area aren’t willing to do.”

The play, which features scenes of drag performers at a nightclub, is full of flamboyantly gay characters that are “too outrageous for words,” Lloyd said.

Despite being a romping comedy, the play also brings forward some strong family and moral issues. The audience follows the journey of a son who comes to accept that his father is gay — and the realization that your family is not necessarily the one you are born into, but the one you create with love and acceptance.

All who watch the show will be able to take something away from it, Lloyd said.

HART has broken box office records for the past five years with its shows. Lloyd hopes this show will continue that record-breaking streak — not just for the fame and glory but out of necessity. The show was one of HART’s more expensive, costing $25,000 to $30,000 to put on.

“It is a big risk,” he said.

But in the year 2012, it certainly is not as risqué or daring as it must have been when it first hit the stage.

“The piece was originally written in the 70s when all of this was risqué and never done before. Now, there is a lot of stuff out there from ‘Will and Grace’ to ‘The Birdcage,’” Lloyd said.

Lloyd is putting on the play at the behest of several of his regular actors who admired the musical and pushed him to do it for years.

Eric Martinez, who plays Albin, was particularly excited when he discovered HART was finally going to run “La Cage aux Folles.” He saw the show several years ago and just knew he was going to play Albin some day. His admiration for the character is due to getting to be “a bigger than life character with the emotional side.”

Casting the larger-than-life characters in this musical was a challenge.

“Not just anybody can play them,” Lloyd said.

Finding the right person to play Albin was probably the toughest.

“Albin is rather flamboyant and has to be an actor that can pull that off and have a great voice to sing over everyone else,” Lloyd said.

Actor Rod Leigh, who plays George, found his character challenging as well.

“Even though I am a gay man in real life, it is not easy being a gay man playing a gay man,” he said.

The actors have, however, managed to push through these challenges to prepare a wonderful and vibrant show. They began preparing for the production two months ago.

“It takes seven to eight weeks to put on a show like this, rehearsing anywhere from three to five nights a week,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd praised the dancers who undoubtedly had the hardest go of it.

“We have six dancers that go through several costume changes,” Lloyd said. “They have the most exhaustive things to do in the show, and they have to be in really good shape. They are the first people here and the last to leave.”

This show really took a lot of effort and energy from all of the cast members.

“We start with choreography, then music, then costumes, makeup and orchestra,” Lloyd said. “Each time you add something new, something else steps backwards. You are constantly taking two steps forward and one step back.”

The cast has 24 people, which is a moderate size for a musical.

“I want everyone to see it and give it a chance and to see themselves in it,” Martinez said.


The plot:

“La Cage aux Folles” is a farcical comedy about a gay couple, George and Albin. George runs a nightclub called “La Cage aux Folles” that stars Albin’s drag character, Zaza, as the lead dancer and his entourage, called “the Cagelles,” who bring the stage to life as they dance in sequins and feather boas. The nightclub is one of the hottest spots on the Riviera, which makes Zaza a local star.

George’s son, Jean Michel, has fallen in love with a very conservative politician’s daughter. When Jean Michel invites his fiancé’s parents, the Dindons, to dinner with his family, his hopes of convincing them he lives in a conservative household crash. Albin dresses as Jean Michel’s mother in an attempt to salvage the dinner and the comedy ensues.

The background:

“La Cage aux Folles” became a popular movie titled “the Birdcage” in 1996 set in Miami instead of France and stared Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. It also won several Tony Awards while it was on Broadway, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, and the only musical to ever win Best Revival twice.


Want to see it?

You still have two more weeks to catch a performance of La Cage aux Folles.

When: 7:30 p.m. July 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28 and 3 p.m. July 22 and 29

Where: The HART theater in Waynesville

Cost: Adults $24, seniors $22, and students and teachers $10 with student tickets available for the Thursday and Sunday performances. 828.456.6322.

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