Dancing Inspirations: La Cage aux Folles

It's been an exciting few weeks.  'Perfect Partners' has launched on Amazon and I've had some great reviews.  I loved this one from The Book Lovers, and I very much enjoyed doing an interview with Katie Thompson, who's also kindly reviewed the book here. And apart from launching 'Perfect Partners', I also appear on this month's Book It (a literary show on local community radio) reviewing two books linked only by a Christian name: local author Craig Hallam's fantasy novel, 'Greaveburn', and Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood's autobiography, 'All Balls and Glitter'. 

I enjoyed both books, but it's Craig Revel Horwood's I particularly want to mention here, only because it was what finally prodded me into booking tickets for a theatre production I'd been hearing about for some time: local group LS Productions version of 'La Cage aux Folles'.  Despite knowing several cast members, I'd been dragging my heels on booking simply because I knew nothing about the show itself.  But when Craig Revel Horwood mentioned 'La Cage aux Folles' in connection with sequins, ostrich feathers and six foot blokes in heels, I knew it was something I had to see.  And was it! 
Lee Semley, as drag artist Albin in the Barnsley version of La Cage Aux Folles.
The super-glamorous star of the show (right) set a high standard in both style and singing, but all the cast members thoroughly lived up to it.  I was particularly impressed that a few sticky moments with lines and lights, which could have easily spoiled the flow, simply became an opportunity for spectacularly funny ad-libs.  Not only that, but the frothy, fabulous atmosphere of the nightclub scenes was underpinned by a thoughtful and sensitive treatment of some of the issues faced by people who don't fit perfectly into the conventional categories of male/female or gay/straight. Imagine bringing your fiancee's ultra-traditional family to dinner to meet your 'parents' - both of whom are men, but one of whom makes a habit of appearing on stage as a woman!  The whole thing is deliciously farcical, and yet you really feel for the characters.  For the first time, I fully appreciated just how the centerpiece song, 'I Am What I Am' came to be such an anthem for the LGBT community. 

Prior to the show, a local newspaper had run a piece billing the show as, amongst other things, a celebration of gay marriage, and so it was, in a sense.  It certainly made me proud that the church where I got married, Upper Chapel in Sheffield, is, so far as we know, the first in the area to be licensed to marry gay couples.  And perhaps the extraordinary experience of watching a strapping bloke transform, on stage, into a singing diva, also made me a little more receptive to the fascinating talk I later came across on TED celebrating the full spectrum of LGBT life under the parodic title, 'Fifty shades of Gay'.  Although maybe I'd always have felt that way: after all, I didn't just give Lisa the obligatory 'gay best friend' in 'Perfect Partners' - I also gave gay best friend Jerry his very own love story!  People outside the ballroom dancing world often think that a lot of the men involved must be gay, just because of the Cuban heeled boots and sequins and fake tan.  So it was fun to be able to create one man who fitted the camp stereotype of the male dancer, and another who totally turned it on its head - tough, footballing ladies' man, Redmond.  They couldn't be more different, but they definitely both are what they are, and happy with what they are. 

I love to write, read, and watch stories about accepting people for what they are, and ultimately the take-away message of 'La Cage aux Folles' is less about celebrating any particular preferences, and more about celebrating life and love in all their glorious, ridiculous diversity.  'La Cage aux Folles' is, in the truest and best sense of the term, a love story.  Oh, and the costumes are to die for, with more sequins than you can shake a stiletto at!  See it if you possibly can. 


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