Friday, August 14, 2015

The Best Of Times Is Now! La Cage Aux Folles Premieres Tonight

By Mona Lott

“Remember, your eyebrows don’t have to be twins, just sisters,” elicited a laugh from the rather small dressing room stage right that houses the “Cagelles” in Ignite Theatre’s current production of La Cage Aux Folles. I got to spend some time with the “girls” during their first dress rehearsal as I was asked to come in and give them some basic instructions in “drag” makeup. For those of you who are not in the know, La Cage Aux Folles, at over thirty years old is the masterpiece of Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman and features a chorus of boys dressed as girls, known as The Cagelles and a leading lady who, like The Cagelles, is a man.

IgniteTheatre will bring this show back to life when it opens on Friday August 14th at The Aurora Fox.

A show that has been sitting on my “bucket list” for some time, I was thrilled when my husband of over twenty years was cast as the husband of the star attraction Albin and owner of the club that houses Albin and her bevy of beautiful show girls. Georges the character is a whole “Lott” like the actor portraying him, Jim Hitzke . Being married to a drag queen and creating all her costumes in real life gives Hitzke more than enough life experience to draw on as George. Hitzke looks at John White, who plays Albin, when he says, “we just put the face of our husbands on each other” while describing how they have managed in creating the characters Georges and Albin.

White is rather new to Colorado. Having moved her seven years ago from Florida where he had a long career with Disney performing among other things as the costumed character, The Queen Of Hearts, La Cage Aux Folles is his first show since coming to Denver. White states that he had decided to take some time away from the stage, but when he saw the casting notice for La Cage he thought, “that could be fun, why not give it a try?” Hitzke, on the other hand, is a long time Denver performer having recently tackled roles in Urinetown, Spamalot and The Drowsey Chaperone. Directing these two accomplished performers is Denver director, Bernie Cardell.

When asked about the challenges in casting this show Cardell states, “Finding the right Georges and Albin is always a challenge with this show. You’ve got to have two men of a certain age who can sing, dance, act AND have that spark of chemistry between them. We got very lucky with two talented men who showed up to auditions.” That “certain age” Cardell speaks of is one that makes possible having a twenty something year old son who is about to be married, as in the character of Jean-Michel played by Darren Koehler.

Jean-Michel, the biological son of Georges and the much loved “step” son of Albin comes to see his father early on in the play announcing his engagement to the daughter of some very conservative parents. To make matters worse, Jean-Michel’s future in-laws are coming to have dinner with Georges. Therein lies the crux of the show as Jean-Michel in an effort to shield the in-laws would like his “surrogate” mother Albin to leave for a couple of days.

For those of you who have seen the movie, “The Birdcage” this may all seem rather familiar as the movie is based on the same 1973 French Play that the musical is also based on. The play by Jean Poiret was adapted by Fierstein with music by Jerry Herman and made it’s Broadway debut in 1983. Since then it has lived many resurrections including a 2004 Broadway revival, a 2008 London revival and another revival in 2010 that at one point featured Fierstein himself in the lead role ofAlbin. La Cage Aux Folles is the first musical to ever win two Tony Awards for Best Revival and a best musical for the original production.

So I asked Cardell, in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, why bring this show out of storage again. Cardell answered, “One of the first things I said to my cast at our first rehearsal was, Love wins.” He went on to tell them that, “love wins” would be the theme of the production, that the Supreme Court decision was a momentous occasion and a show that features a gay couple who have been together for over twenty years is a great way to celebrate that. White echoed those sentiments stating that the court decision had not come out yet when the show was auditioning and that Ignite was smart in choosing to do the show now. Hitzke agreed saying that the show represents so many of the kind of relationships that will benefit from the ruling on marriage equality.

Being a show also of that “certain age” I asked them all what they had done, if anything to make the show more relevant. White states that they have updated a line or two with the name of a more modern celebrity, just to bring it more up to date. Cardell said he’s given it a more modern setting which will help the themes come through to a younger audience.

White went on to explain that playing an iconic role like Albin was a challenge just in trying to make it his own and not a copy of any of the stars who have played it before. That is a huge challenge, considering that George Hearn won a Tony in the original production as did Douglas Hodge who won The Laurence Olivier award in the 2008 London Revival and a Tony in the 2010 Broadway revival. Hitzke has his work cut out for him as well, taking on the role ofGeorgesin the shadow of Gene Barry, Van Johnson, Peter Marshall, Robert Goulet,KelsiGrammer and George Hamilton.

My makeup tutoring session with the Cagelles came to a somewhat clumsy end as the “girls” hurriedly tried on costumes for the first time, discovering that they might have some uncomfortable shaving to do before opening night. I quickly gave a few last second tips to a few of them who still lingered as “places” was called for the rehearsal. Next time you should soften that crease line a bit more and be more bold in those highlights under your eyes, I suggested to one and have fun I told him…errr her. Fun is the operative word when I asked Hitzke and White why anyone would want to come to this show. Cardell elaborated by stating, “This is the type of show that will make you forget anything bad going on in your life.” “Run for tickets” he says, “Run!”

La Cage Aux Folles runs Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 PM and Sunday afternoons at 2:30PM from August 14th to September 6th. Tickets can be purchased at 866-811-4111

Mona Lott is an entertainer performing regularly in clubs, theaters and seedy bars. To laugh at her OUTstanding comedy follow her on Twitter at, friend her on Facebook at or stalk her on