La Cage at the Open Air - as life affirming as ever!

“Marry her? You’re a boy. She’s a girl. What will you talk about?” 


Company. (Photo: Mark Senior)

 If you’re only counting seats Regents Park Open Air Theatre may not be the largest venue in London. But it certainly has the highest ceiling. As the evening turns the sky paints a deep emerald green band above the purple stage set. As if it were planned, it’s a perfect backdrop for the bitter-sweet nostalgia of Georges’s “Song on the Sand”. (Disclaimer: The occurrence and duration of such meteorological effects cannot be guaranteed for every evening performance.)

Fierstein and Herman’s musical La Cage aux Folles, (based on Jean Poiret’s play) gets a triumphant revival in the magical atmosphere of the Park in August. Cage was a pioneering show and though now a little dated in some ways, it still has something important to say about tolerance, difference, identity and independence. Perhaps more now than ever. After all, there many places in the world where you would not be allowed to see this show at all.
Billy Carter as Georges, Daniele Coombe as Mme Renaud. Debbie Kurup as Jacqueline and Carl Mullaney as Albin. (Photo: Johan Persson)

One hopes those folk have other suitable forms of entertainment. But they would be hard put to equal Cage‘s opening explosion onto the stage of Ten Drag Queens, followed by the terrific solo numbers of Chantal (Jordan Lee Davies), Hanna (Jack Allan-Anderson), and Phaedra (Gorge Lynham). 

While we’re recovering from that, Stage Manager Francis (Hemi Yeroham) – maestro of the marathon mic lead – takes us backstage where Georges (Billy Carter)’s partner, and star of the show, Albin (Carl Mullaney) is having a meltdown. Age is stalking him and the only defence is increasing doses of cosmetics. Georges reassures him, but he is hiding a deadly secret of his own. 

Like many other long-standing couples, Georges and Albin have bickered, bantered, and bargained their way through the years. “I de-boned a chicken for your dinner,” says Albin. “Where were you?” But they are also deeply in love and their relationship has survived the ups and downs of show business life. Until now… What will happen when Georges reveals his secret? And denies his partner, for what he believes is a good cause?

Carl Mullaney as Albin and the Cagelles (Photo: Johan Persson)

Albin’s response is to sing “I Am What I Am.” A ballad that goes from heart-wrenching despair to triumphant affirmation and brings the audience to its feet for the end of Act One.

Is this a peak too soon? Because Act Two has its weaknesses. The dance energy is undiminished, but to coach a reluctant Albin to act like a man slows the pace and would sit better in a “Carry On Up the Cage” parody. Some songs carry a whiff of cheese. But whether cheddar or camembert is hard to say since even the characters seem uncertain which country they live in. 

A drag club in St Tropez, re-located to a seaside town in the north east, is being persecuted by a populist politician. But a politician (John Owen Jones) with a strongly Geordie accent whose wife (Julie Jupp) appears to be Margaret Thatcher’s resurrected double, rather than the original French ultra conservative politicians.  

Hmm… Is this someone’s nightmare? And are all Tynesiders such notorious bigots?
Ben Culleton as Jean-Michel and Sophie Pourret as Anne Dindon. (Photo: Johan Persson)
The Chorus sings of the naughtiness of the Cage and hints at wicked goings on that we can’t see. But apart from the odd gesture, and a liaison between the very tall Hanna and the very not-tall Francis, perhaps the only hint of real decadence is the severed head of John the Baptist Albin keeps handy in a box to reprise Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” should the occasion present itself.
But, quibbles apart, this is a sensational show. Direction, costume, sets, lighting, and music from a live band, combine seamlessly to make a very special evening. 
La Cage aux Folles is a work which is as committed to a cause as it is to its audience.
This Production honours both with wit, style, and dignity.

Musical Numbers

Act One


We Are What We Are

(A Little More) Mascara

With Anne on My Arm

With You on My Arm

Song on the Sand

La Cage aux Folles

I Am What I Am

Act Two


Song on the Sand (Reprise) 


Look Over There

Cocktail Counterpoint

The Best of Times

Look Over There” (Reprise)

La Cage aux Folles” (Reprise)


Production Notes

La Cage Aux Folles

Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman

Book by Harvey Fierstein

Based on the play by Jean Poiret

Directed by Tim Sheader



Debbie Kurup

Alexandra Waite-Roberts

Billy Carter

Carl Mullaney

Craig Armstrong

Daniele Coombe

Emma Johnson

Hemi Yeroham

John Owen-Jones

Jordan Lee Davies

Julie Jupp

Nicole Deo

Tom Bales

Taylor Bradshaw

Rishard-Kyro Nelson

Jak Allen-Anderson

Ben Culleton

Lewis Easter

Harvey Ebbage

Shakeel Kimotho

George Lynham

JP McCue

Sophie Pourret


Director: Tim Sheader

Choreographer: Stephen Mear and Ebony Molina

Set Designer: Colin Richmond

Costume Designer: Ryan Dawson Laight

Musical Supervisor and Arranger: Sarah Travis

Lighting Designer:  Howard Hudson

Sound Designer: Nick Lister for Autograph

Wigs, hair and make-up Designer: Guy Common

Musical Director:Ben van Tienen

Orchestrator Jason Carr

Musical supervisor: Jennifer Whyte


Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval

Extended and Booking until 23rd August 2023 



Open Air Theatre

Regent’s Park

Inner Circle

London NW1 4NU

Phone: 0333 400 3562


Tube: Baker Street

Reviewed by Brian Clover

at the Open Air

on 16th August 2023

Company. (Photo: Mark Senior)