“We are what we are” declares the opening song of La Cage Aux Folles. The phrase both opens and closes the musical, a show performed by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Department of Theatre and Dance the past two weekends.
La Cage Aux Folles tells the story of Jean-Michel’s unconventional family melding with that of his conservative fiancé’s.
Jean-Michel’s father, Georges, owns the drag nightclub, La Cage Aux Folles, in the French Riviera where his lover Albin stars as ZaZa.
“The show is all about love and has a message that it’s important to tolerate and love each other for our differences, and the family that you choose can be just as strong and vital and lasting as the one you’re born with,” said Alan Patrick Kenny, assistant professor of musical theatre and the show’s director.
La Cage captures audiences with flashy costumes, bright lights and catchy musical numbers characteristic of the night club around which the plot centers.
While the musical sweeps the audience along in a mix of different love stories, it was the introduction that stole the show.
Carson Frost played the role of Mercedes, one of the showgirls at La Cage, but also portrayed a stewardess who conversed with the audience before the plot of the story began.
“The 2010 revival did this original improv, which I thought was a wonderful icebreaker for the audience and a great chance for one of our actors to improvise with the crowd,” Kenny said. “We took a few of the jokes that they originally used, and added a bunch of our own.”
This improv started the audience laughing, enraptured with Frost’s charisma, and set them up for the fun show ahead of them.
While the show had many successes, it was not without its difficulties.
“The challenges of teaching men how to dance and perform in three-inch heels was significant but also incredibly fun and joyful,” Kenny said.
Maddie Adams, sophomore dance major, attended one of the performances.
“I think the dancing is going to be different for everyone, but everyone did the best they could, obviously,” Adams said. “I think it was just great overall.”
Though the show comes with a distinct air of unconventionality, Kenny believes it is valuable to produce such performances.
“As a director, it’s important to me that I try to constantly challenge myself in picking shows that are as different as possible from my previous projects here, and La Cage couldn’t be more different than Dogfight, the most recent show I directed here,” Kenny said.
Another impressive aspect of the production was the music. The orchestra, directed by Mark Hanson, was essential in creating the mood of the French Riviera on the stage of the Jenkins Theatre.
“Face life with a little guts and lots of glitter,” is a line within the opening song. This line goes along with the production’s theme of being confident of who you are and loving yourself and your family.
“I liked the whole thing,” said Anthony Leiva, a community member who attended the production. “There wasn’t any part that I could say I didn’t like because I liked the whole thing. This was the first time I watched it so it’s really fun.”
Both audience members as well as the cast and crew were pleased with how the show turned out.
Kenny said, “I’m very proud of everyone involved, and the audiences have been cheering and crying and giving standing ovations. Now more than ever, doing a show with such a positive and love-filled message is really important and tremendously gratifying.”