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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 23, 2006

DHT's 'La Cage' sparkles

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Special to The Advertiser


Diamond Head Theatre

8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturday and June 3, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through June 4



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At heart, "La Cage aux Folles" is a familiar story of two young people desperately in love against the wishes of their parents.

But when one set of those parents owns a drag nightclub and the "mom" is the transvestite star of a flamboyant stage show, bravura, bangles and beads rightly dominate the evening.

Trumping even the young people's romance, the gay couple's re-evaluation of their own commitment offers some of the show's most hilarious and touching situations. The result is a new love story decked out in feathers and size 12 stilettos.

Revived multiple times since its 1973 origin as a French play including a 1990 musical production at Leeward Community College the show reached its widest American audience with the 1996 movie, "The Birdcage," starring Nathan Lane as the drag star Albin/ZaZa with Robin Williams as Georges feeding him the straight lines.

John Rampage directs the current revival at Diamond Head Theatre. As he did 16 years ago at LCC, he gives it a blockbuster punch of glamour, energy and style.

Bill Doherty and Jess Aki inflate "La Cage" with Vegas showgirl costumes, makeup and hair. Andrew Sakaguchi pumps up the mostly male chorus to Olympic levels of cross-dressing choreographic stamina. And musical director Alethea Train gives big-show sound to the larger-than-usual orchestra and chorus.

But the evening belongs to Randl Ask as Albin/ZaZa.

There is a pervasive playfulness in his many-layered performance and a genuine sense that he loves the joke of playing the mincing, frou-frou Albin, who in turn loves playing the many showgirl faces of ZaZa his indomitable alter ego. Better yet, Ask broadly projects his delight at letting his audience share the experience. Every leering smile and eye twinkle asks, "Isn't this fun?"

The answer is invariably, "You bet!"

But Ask isn't just satisfied with whipping up a frothy cocktail of transgender steroids. He dons a different drag to impersonate a straight female for his potential in-laws.

It's difficult to pick a favorite moment in such a chameleon performance, but Albin's learning to walk like John Wayne and sit with his knees apart is certainly at the top.

But don't fail to notice the ease and grace with which Laurence Paxton delivers the character of Georges, always showing off his partner in the best light but never play-ing second fiddle. Georges doesn't get the most memorable of the Jerry Herman songs, but Paxton gives "Song on the Sand" and "Look Over There" sufficient vocal and dramatic importance to keep them from becoming overshadowed.

The dancing chorus of Les Cagelles takes on the importance of the show's third leading character and stands up to its demands for slinking elegance and boundless cancan energy. Sean Jones sings "With Anne on My Arm" and plays the young son with sufficient backbone to avoid being lost in the carnival milieu.

Finally, when George and Albin share a chaste kiss on the lips in the show's finale, we feel they have earned it.