Director Dale Gutzman
departed from his usual Christmas HOLIDAY PUNCH formula to bring to Milwaukee
the beloved show which has been on Broadway twice and will return for a
third visit next March.
The new more intimate London production of this gender-bending family musical comedy, gave Gutzman the idea that it could indeed be staged at Off The Wall's tiny theatre, so he and Technical Director David Roper went to work to transform the space into a St. Tropez Transvestite Night Club. The show started out as a modest French farce, which then became a hit French film spawning two sequels. Then it became the Mega- hit Broadway musical and then a successful Hollywood film with Nathan Lane and Robin Williams called "THE BIRDCAGE."
Gutzman knew that in order for the show to work, he needed every aspect to be perfect. While David Roper was painting the entire inside of the theatre bright pink, installing curtains and levels and fifty pink flamingos, Dale contacted his old musical buddy, the amazing Jack Forbes Wilson. Wilson first came to Milwaukee over twenty-five years ago to work with Gutzman when they were both hired by the then Performing Arts Center to create original musicals. Jack is not only a true musical genius at the piano, but the kind of showman, LA CAGE needs. Jack responded in his quirky way, "You know Dale, it's high time we worked together again," and he cleared his schedule for the show. Used to choreographing his own shows as well as directing, Gutzman freely admits he is no longer a "spring chicken," and the show requires lots and lots of dance. One number involves tap, while a second has a six-minute Can Can section. So Dale turned to his "Off The Wall" family member Sharon Rise to stage the show stopping dance numbers. Sharon starred at Off the Wall as Mama Rose in GYSPY, and has been working with Gutzman on and off for over twenty years.
What remained was to cast this extremely difficult show. Five singing and dancing men who feel comfortable dressing as women and can tap and do cartwheels in high heels! A young male and female with angelic faces and voices!
A group of comedic character actors! And a multi-talented lead who is guaranteed to stop the show dead every evening with the power of his performance.
For the five "Cagelles" Dale hired Parker Christian, who has played cruise ships professionally for years, and recently performed LA CAGE in Florida, Jeremy Welter, leading actor and Associate Director of Off the Wall, Ben George, who just finished starring in COMPANY for Gutzman, and relatively new Off the Wall members Chris Elst and Paul Pfannenstiel. To this group he added Off the Wall regulars Sharon Rise, Annie Mater, Liz Mistele, and Kristin Pagenkopf.
For the young lovers, Dale cast Jacqueline Roush who appeared in COMPANY and handsome newcomer Patrick McGuire.
OFF THE WALL, as our audiences know, is brimming with wonderful character actors. For this show Gutzman corralled Lawrence Lukasavage of course, plus Donna Lobacz, Mary Beth Tell, Tom Welcenbach,Mark Hagen, Michael Davis, Marcee Doherty, and Sandy Lewis.
And for a star? For someone to play Albin, the sensitive, overwrought, homosexual who appears as the divine ZAZA and sings some of the greatest Broadway songs ever composed? There is probably one one actor in Milwaukee who could do justice to the role. Karl Miller. His versatility and complete emersion in his roles, ensured that Alvin was not only be show stopping, but heart wrenching as well. Playing opposite Miller as has he has done onstage and sometimes off over a quarter of a century, was Dale Gutzman himself.
In the show, after twenty years of domestic tranquility, Georges and Albin's world is shattered when a son, fathered during a one night heterosexual fling, decides to marry the daughter of a bigoted politician. Amid the sleazy grandeur of the Drag club, George agrees to pretend to be "normal" for one night to meed the father and mother of the bride-to-be. But Albin has other ideas with hilarious results.
And the score! The score is the best of the best, including; 'I AM WHAT I AM," "THE BEST OF TIMES," "LA CAGE AUX FOLLES," "YOU ON MY ARM." and the hauntingly beautiful "SONG ON THE SAND."