By Kelly Burch
---- — Fabulous drag queens, beautiful voices and a marital mismatch between the daughter of a conservative politician and a son with two fathers: It sounds like the recipe for a night of laughs. And while there are plenty of funny moments in the North Shore Music Theatre’s new production of “La Cage aux Folles,” the show also pulls at the heartstrings as a son rejects his family and his father’s struggle to accept his new life.
However, in the end this modern family is able to come together with all its members – male, female and other.
The play opens when George (Charles Shaugnessy, star of “The Nanny” and “Day of Our Lives”), the master of ceremonies at the drag nightclub “La Cage aux Folles,” welcomes audience members to the show where George’s partner, Albin, stars as his female alter-ego “Zaza.” George and Albin (Jonathan Hammond) have lived above the nightclub for many years, and together they raised George’s 24-year-old son, Jean-Michel, the product of a misguided fling with a woman.
Their settled routine, however, is disrupted when Jean-Michel announces that he is engaged.
“Our son is marrying a woman,” laments Albin. “What have we done wrong?”
The fiance is not just any woman, but the daughter of the leader of the “Tradition, Family and Morality Party,” which is currently fighting to close drag clubs. When his future in-laws come to dinner, Jean-Michel announces that his father and mother should pretend to be together, and that Albin can only attend if he can play straight and pass as Uncle Al. Boas are swapped for crosses as Jean-Michel tries to re-size his family to fit into his in-laws’ mold.
Of course, when the in-laws arrive, nothing goes as planned. One no-show and a surprise guest make the evening unforgettable, and ultimately, make Jean-Michel realize how lucky he is to have two loving parents.
“La Cage aux Folles” is a high-energy show, with cross-dressing dancers in colorful costumes performing everything from tap-dance to gymnastics. Shaugnessy and Hammond have an excellent chemistry, but Nikko Kimzin, playing the couple’s flamboyant maid Jacob, steals the show every time he sets his high-heeled feet on stage.
Despite its gender-bending characters, “La Cage aux Folles” touches on a theme nearly everyone can relate to: loving your family, no matter how they come.
If You Go What: "La Cage Aux Folles" at the North Shore Music Theatre. When: Through Oct. 6. Where: North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly. How: Tickets $45-$75 by visiting the theater box office, calling 978-232-7200, or visiting www.nsmt.org.