‘The Light Opera has put together a powerful cast with Neil Broadbent in the pivotal role of Alban and his alter-ego, the nightclub performer ZaZa’
IF YOU like your theatre to have glamour, humour and more than a hint of tenderness then look no further than a musical which, when it opens at the Lawrence Batley Theatre this month, will be making its stage debut in the town.
Not that La Cage Aux Folles is a new show. It has been around in one form or another for more than 30 years, as a long-running boulevard style Parisian comedy, as an art house film made by a French-Italian team which proved a big hit in the United States and as a musical.
And it is the challenge of staging the latter that Huddersfield Light Opera Company has grabbed with both hands.
The company is not shy of tackling big productions. Its recent shows have included Copacabana and Summer Holiday.
Now the society has taken on a show that wowed Broadway in the Eighties and has recently been doing the same for West End audiences in London.
Hardly surprising that this is a musical with staying power. The music is by the American Jerry Herman, who has thrilled the Light Opera Company by sending them a letter in which he says: “I am so delighted that you are doing La Cage aux Folles and hope that you enjoy singing my songs.
“I’d like to wish you a happy and successful production and I know that you will make it the best of times.”
The society aims to do just that, with a powerful line-up of top local talent, the production skills of director and choreographer Pam Strickland and the whole show packaged in the original, spectacular costumes which made West End audiences gasp.
La Cage was, after all, not just an award-winning hit on Broadway but a major success at the Palladium in London, where American George Hearn teamed up with English actor Dennis Quilley and a supporting cast which included Jonathan Morris, best remembered for his role in the TV hit, Bread and the well-known actress Phyllida Law, whose daughter Emma Thompson just happens to have made it big in the theatre world, too.
A group of Light Opera members headed for London this year to see a new production of the show at the Menier Chocolate Factory featuring Australian actor Philip Quast, remembered by many musical fans as the policemen in Les Miserables, plus Douglas Hodge and the ever- popular Una Stubbs.
They were impressed by a production which, while bringing out the show’s humour, was also able to push all the right emotional buttons.
For those not familiar with the show the story of La Cage is based on a couple who have been together for 20 years and who now face a problem viewed with trepidation by many; meeting the prospective in-laws.
The difference in this show, written by Harvey Fierstein, is that the couple in question are gay nightclub owner Georges and his partner, Alban, the star entertainer at his club.
When George’s son brings home his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents to meet them fireworks are in prospect.
But Fierstein and Herman quickly show us that ultimately, family is what matters and there could be more than a tear shed at a show that definitely has a real tenderness at its heart.
The Light Opera has put together a powerful cast with Neil Broadbent in the pivotal role of Alban and his alter-ego, the nightclub performer, ZaZa. As one of the town’s most skilled musical performers, this promises to be a career highlight for Neil and for audiences at the LBT.
Nigel Dixon, a new face to Light Opera supporters but a well-established performer with societies across the region, joins the company to play Georges. This is a show that Nigel has appeared in on a couple of occasions with other societies and he is delighted to be making both his Light Opera and LBT debut.
Anne Levitt, who has worked with Nigel on many shows, joins him in this move to the Light Opera. She is taking over the baton for this show as musical director of a 17-piece orchestra which should do more than justice to Herman’s powerful songs.
Keith Royston, Gina Cook, Granville Stead and Andrew Spencer are among the established performers who will help to ensure that this is a show to remember.
Opening night is April 28 and performances run each evening until May 3 at 7.15pm. There is also a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm.
Tickets from the LBT box office on 01484 430528. The show is sponsored by Kingsgate.