Music Theatre of Madison brings the beloved ‘La Cage’ to Five Nightclub

Jay Rath, Contributing writer

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Music Theatre of Madison brings you La Cage aux Folles, the musical comedy about a gay nightclub owner and his flamboyant partner — who has to play straight.

“It’s a love story about two people who have been married a long time and the challenges that come with that,” says director Catie O’Donnell. “It’s a love story about parents and their children, and about families coming together. It’s romantic and it’s funny and it’s sweet.”

The cabaret production will be staged at Madison’s LGBTQ-friendly Five Nightclub, with food and drinks available. 

“You don’t have to drive around town,” says the company’s founder and artistic director, Meghan Randolph. “You can do it all in one place. You can come, have dinner and drinks, see the show and then stay for dancing.”

Leading the cast will be Robert Goderich, a former Milwaukeean whose credits include work with the San Francisco Opera, Sunset Playhouse, Madison Opera and Four Seasons Theatre. He plays Albin, a colorful drag queen who sets the farce in motion.

“With my character in the show, I have the amazing opportunity to play a character within the character,” he says. “I get to be over the top as well show my true, honest heart. It’s really the best challenge I may have encountered working on a role.”

La Cage aux Folles has been wildly successful since its premiere, and has been adapted several times. It began as a French play in 1973 and, five years later, became a popular French-Italian film. In 1984, the staged musical premiered on Broadway, winning six Tony Awards. A 2005 Broadway revival of the musical starred Kelsey Grammer, formerly the star of TV’s Frasier.

Goderich already loved the American movie version (titled The Birdcage), made in 1996. “Robin Williams and Nathan Lane were spectacular, as well as the rest of the cast,” he says. “The musical (adaptation) I wasn’t as versed in, but when I started researching it I knew this was a conversation that I wanted to be having.”

It’s been a decade since La Cage was produced in Madison. Since then, a new generation has grown up unfamiliar with the musical.

“I’ve actually run into more people than I thought I would who don’t know what it is,” says Randolph. “It’s just a fabulous celebration of love. With the Supreme Court ruling about gay marriage, we thought it would be a good time to do it.”

In the 10 seasons Music Theatre of Madison has produced shows, the company has focused largely on lesser-known or seldom-performed pieces, making La Cage an anomaly. 

“We get a lot of sh*t because people always die in our shows,” says Randolph. “For our anniversary season, we’re only doing stuff that’s not depressing!”

The unusual venue is another change. “With the staging, we’re able to bring some of the scenes and the actors further into the audience’s space,” says O’Donnell. “There will be a few key scenes where audiences will be brought in to feel a part of the show. We completely drop the fourth wall, and the actors are going to be singing and talking directly to the audience.”

Music Theatre of Madison has presented 10 Wisconsin premieres of musicals such as Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens; and Hostage Song, as well as the Midwest premiere of 35MM. The company also produces readings of new musicals from authors across the country.

Its anniversary season will continue with the Midwest premiere of Arlington, a one-woman performance about an army wife, April 29-May 7, and will conclude with A New Brain, the story of a composer’s fight to produce the perfect legacy, July 8-16.

ON STAGE

La Cage aux Folles will be presented Feb. 4 to Feb. 13, at Five Nightclub, 5 Applegate Court, Madison. Tickets are $25. For more information or to purchase, visit mtmadison.com or call 800-838-3006.