La Cage aux Folles

Alex LeBlanc as Mercedes at Trinity Rep, Photo by Mark Turek. Motif Magazine
Alex LeBlanc as Mercedes in La Cage aux Folles at Trinity Rep. (Photo by Mark Turek)

Five days into Pride Month and Trinity Repertory Company launched a larger-than-a-teased-beehive celebration of love that leaves its audience crowing with laughter and welling with emotion.

Trinity’s 60th season ends with a feisty production of Harvey Fierstein’s 1983 Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles, examining the concept of loving who you want romantically and within your chosen family. And, while the well-known opening chorus proclaims, “We are what we are and what we are is an illusion,” there’s no illusion about the message of this raucous three-hour extravaganza: Celebrate who you are.

At the center is young Jean-Michel, who wants everything to go smoothly when he introduces his fiancé and her ultra-conservative parents to his family. But, her father heads the French Tradition, Family and Morality political party and his father, Georges, runs the St. Tropez drag club her father’s party wants to close down. 


To avoid conflict, Jean-Michel asks his father to make sure Albin, his father’s partner who also helped raise him, is out of sight for the visit and invites his absent biological mother. He also frantically neutralizes décor in the family home to better befit the fictitious foreign service career he created for his father.

With a gaggle of performers from the club, La Cage aux Folles (translation: cage of fools), punctuates the dramatic domestic action with peppy choreography, the storyline teems with farcical antics that temper scenes digging at the heart-breaking reality faced by many in the LGBTQ+ community without diminishing their impact.

When his biological mother fails to show, Jean-Michel realizes the true value of family and unconditional love and invites Albin to the dinner. The evening goes well until Albin forgets himself while singing and tempers, as predicted, flare.

Fierstein’s book expertly blends complex emotions with songs about passion and purpose, while direction by Trinity’s Tayvon Gamble generates a beautiful, fast-paced maelstrom highlighting love of all kinds. 

La Cage aux Folles at Trinity Rep. Photo by Mark Turek.

The production draws solid performances from company favorites Stephen Thorne, who plays a wonderfully campy Georges, and Rachael Warren, whose vocal talents shine as Jacqueline, the LGBTQ+ ally and restaurateur. Highlighting the cast, however, are standout performances by Trinity newcomers C. Mingo Long as Albin/Zaza and Augusto Guardado as Chantal, chorus girl and Zaza’s maid.

Long is a powerful presence whether clad in a robe and hair net or full glittery gown and wig. His facial expressions share the pain of being misunderstood and excluded. Too proud to complain when Jean-Michel asks him to skip the dinner, Long’s strained delivery of “I Am What I Am” cracks with emotion. In a separate scene, when Jean-Michel allows him to join the festivities as his “Uncle Al,” Long’s exaggerated physical antics during lessons on “ow to be a man” are exquisite.

As regal and refined as Long’s Albin is, Guardado lends a more frenetic edge to his character that creates some of the show’s most comic moments. Early in the second act, for example, Chantal, clad as a nun, pirouettes with a wonderfully pointy umbrella to guard a mourning Albin. The movements and facial expressions are precise and hysterical.

La Cage aux Folles is epic and endearing, layering humor with emotion so skillfully the audience is left rapt and invested in the message, ready to carry it forth. 

The show runs through June 30 at Trinity, 201 Washington St., Providence. For tickets, go to