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Bay Area Musicals stages San Francisco-worthy ‘Cage aux Folles’

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Michael RJ Campbell, left, and Clay David appear in Bay Area Musicals’ “La Cage aux Folles.” (Courtesy Ben Krantz)

Bay Area Musicals is closing its inaugural season with a simply rousing version of “La Cage aux Folles’’ at the Victoria Theatre.

The multiple Tony Award-winning, celebratory LGBTQ-themed show by Harvey Fierstein (book) and Jerry Herman (music, lyrics) couldn’t be a more perfect presentation from the troupe founded by Matthew McCoy that’s breaking into The City’s rich theater scene.

With drag queens on seemingly every corner in San Francisco, “La Cage” and its gay concerns – including two men kissing, groundbreaking when the show played Broadway in 1983 — happily, are anything but shocking around here these days.

Yet its message of acceptance of all people hasn’t gone out of style, and comes across loud and clear.

Saturday night’s crowd, with patrons in cocktail tables in front of the theater’s front-row seats, ate up the antics of the drag performers playing the 1977 St. Tropez club for which the show is named: Star Zaza (the alter ego of Albin, the longtime partner of club manager-emcee Georges) and six glam choristers in bustiers, short shorts (costumes by Brooke Jennings) and great hair (wigs by Jacqueline Dennis).

Georges (Clay David) and the “Cagelles” (Patrick Brewer, Michael Saenz, Christopher Juan, Malakani Severson, Lavale Davis and RJ San Jose) sexily get things off to a great start, with the show’s empowerment theme, “We Are What We Are,” featuring catchy, refreshing choreography by McCoy, who smartly directed.

The plot, also, is refreshingly simple: Georges’ son Jean-Michel (smooth-voiced Jack O’Reilly) is about to be married, and he’s bringing his fiancée Anne (Bessie Zoino) and her conservative parents (Cameron Weston, Mary Gibboney) home to meet the family – but not the flamboyant gay parents he’s grown up with nor their equally flaming houseboy (Joseph Alvarado).

He wants his dad to act straight, his mostly unknown birth mom to show up, and femme Albin not to be around at all. The distinctly homosexual décor in their apartment must go, too.

They acquiesce with the plan – until they don’t, and the ensuing shenanigans are light, entertaining and touching.

Directed by Jon Gallo, the seven-piece band provides lively accompaniment to the all-around performers, skilled singers and actors.

Michael RJ Campbell is the delightfully emotional Albin, who hilariously agrees to act masculine with a funny John Wayne impersonation, and blows the crowd away with his Act 1 closer “I Am What I Am” and second act show-stopper “The Best of Times,” set in an eatery, with lively restaurateur Jacqueline (Sarah Sloan) and the company joining the fun.

David, as Georges, sounds equally great on the less flashy, but equally moving ballads “Song on the Sand” and “Look Over There.”

Speaking of flash, scenic designer Kuo-Hao Lo and lighting designer Joe D’Emilio bring glitz and glamour to the French Riviera “La Cage” stage and apartment with a nice economy.


REVIEW

La Cage aux Folles
Presented by Bay Area Musicals
Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes July 31
Tickets: $20 to $65
Contact: (415) 340-2207, www.bamsf.org

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