If my spirit animal1 came in musical form, this would be it. La Cage aux Folles. The cage of mad women.
It guarantees a night perfect for both kicking shoes off and throwing high heels on – this 9 Works Theatrical production is anything but a drag. Knowing absolutely zilch about theater, I came to the press preview expecting nothing. Zero awareness about the multiple Tony Awards it swept, the Robin Williams movie it produced, even the iconic Inday Bote performance it spawned. Yup, for the barrage of belly laughs and mascara-tinged tears that commenced as soon as the curtains were drawn, I was magnificently unprepared.
Here are 10 reasons why I think this glitzier-than-thou musical extravaganza was made specifically for me.
In no particular order:
1. Their glitter game was so on point.
I couldn’t care less about gold, TBH. All that glitters that just glitter? More than enough for me. Every scene dazzles like Toxic-era Britney… on costume jewelry overdose. It’s in-your-face, in-your-eyes, an inescapable spectacle – and a welcome one at that. But La Cage emits more than just sparkle, from each sequined tutu to all the eye makeup details visible from 20 meters away. The powerhouse cast does its fair share of stunning, which leads me to…
2. Audie Gemora.
Having established that I know squat about theater, I need not pretend I knew of him before this performance. A quick Google search led me to discover his title: the “King of Philippine Musical Theater.” And it was a humbling experience to be granted an audience2 with His Vocal Highness. Fittingly, he plays Zaza, the glamorous reigning queen of the La Cage stage. As the spotlights shut, he transforms into Albin: loving husband/wife and father/mother of one. Gemora takes the proverbial closet and scissor-kicks the doors down – without batting a feather-fluffed eyelash.
3. Michael De Mesa.
Not that the production needed it, but De Mesa added a much-appreciated surge of star power. He plays Georges, who’s pretty much the Mitchell to Albin’s Cameron. As master of ceremonies, he opens the show by, well, opening the show. He provides the audience with the first foray into the fabulous world of La Cage aux Folles, before ultimately welcoming everyone into his home and life. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that De Mesa is De Mesa. He stuns not just with his looks3 but with stage presence too. Not once did it cross my mind that this guy was a TV star. He is Georges, all the way from curtains up to curtain call.
4. Noel Rayos.
He plays Jacob the butler – nay, maid – whose proficiency for cleaning is inversely proportional to his outfit-changing talents. Simply put, he’s a terrible housekeeper yet on his own, a show-stealing side act. He’s sugar and spice and every vice, adding pizzazz to an already blindingly brilliant cast. I learn later on that one of his costumes, an obscenely short Annie outfit, comes with its original labels in tact. The previous owner? No less than Lea Salonga.
5. Steven Silva.
Close friends know how much I adore local showbiz, together with all the talent searches that come with it. That said, Starstruck4 has long been a non-guilty5 pleasure of mine. But oddly so, I’ve never taken notice of Season 5 alumnus Silva before. And shame on me for that. I mean, look at those eyes! And man, that voice! I’m not much for the character he plays, Georges and Albin’s son Jean-Michel, but I guess every story needs a Basic B character to build a plot with.
6. A Lisa Macuja sighting (she was in ballet flats).
Her daughter Missy twirls into view on Jean-Michel’s arm6 as Anne. Missy’s sixteen years old, born around the time I was building shrines to noodle-hair Justin Timberlake, but her youth doesn’t hold her back. In fact, she holds her own among all the industry greats onstage. And on tippy-toes at that.
7. This guy.
Look at him. He seems to be having the time of his life. And it’s great because so was I. You go, Wonderful White Man. Four for you, Wonderful White Man.
8. The quips.
“If beauty is only skin deep, then why are people…?” The Cagelle who shouts this line runs backstage immediately after. At first I was ???, and then I was :)) – when it comes to humor, allow me to pull a reverse Fletcher and say this is exactly my tempo. It’s a few cracks short of slapstick, borderline confusing and inexplicably funny. My top one-liner would have to be Georges defending his relationship with Albin from someone who called them both drag queens. “One transvestite… one plain homosexual,” he clarifies innocently, without missing a beat. I wanted to run up the stage and give him a girly high five.
9. The effortless staging.
Peque Gallaga said it best during the press preview Q&A. The entire cast was teary-eyed after the performance, recounting how difficult everything was. The best part was that the audience, myself included, had absolutely no clue. It’s a personal rule for me – I want my hard work to never seem like hard work7. I believe in commanding attention and not begging for it, and I imagine the same goes for theater. People go to be entertained, not to feel sorry for the poor performers and clap on cue. And damn son, for La Cage, “entertaining” is an understatement. The spontaneous standing ovation we gave was well-deserved.
10. The free trip to France.
To be honest, La Cage aux Folles felt like a memory – not a show. For that night I was there. In flashy St. Tropez, amidst feather boas and flying kicks, among an awesome hybrid of fantastic singers who double as superb dancers, alongside beautiful men dressed beautifully in drag. It’s a charmingly simple story of love and acceptance, told in the most glamorous way possible.
Aaand here comes the call to action: SEE IT, PEOPLE. Take your boyfriend, your best becks, your entire barkada. Meet the Cagelles, who are what they are, and what they are is an illusion. So go catch them before they fade away.
1 A unicorn, of course. Or any other magical creature with rainbow hair.
2 To be part of the audience, more like it.
3 Sweet baby cheezus what a beautiful man
4 Dream, believe, survive!
5 Yep I’m pretty vocal about my fandoms
6 See what I did there?
7 This blog’s title even means studied nonchalance. Who the fuck studies nonchalance? Me, that’s who.