IMPRESARIO Bill Kenwright is mounting the first ever British tour of Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman's Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical La Cage Aux Folles, visiting Leeds this week and York in early May.
John Partridge, last seen at the Leeds Grand Theatre as slick lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago last November, returns there from tomorrow in the iconic role of Albin, who moonlights as star drag act Zaza at the infamous La Cage aux Folles nightclub.
American actor Adrian Zmed will play club owner Georges, Albin's partner, in his British stage after starring on Broadway in Blood Brothers, Falsettos and Grease no fewer than three times and appearing alongside William Shatner as Officer Vince Romano in the 1980s' television show T.J. Hooker. West End leading lady Marti Webb will play Jacqueline, friend to Albin and Georges and owner of the restaurant Chez Jacqueline.
Based on Jean Poiret's 1973 French play, La Cage Aux Folles follows the story of Saint Tropez nightclub manager Georges and his partner, Albin, the club’s star attraction. They live an idyllic existence but this all may change when Georges’ son, Jean-Michel, announces his engagement to the daughter of a right-wing politician determined to close down the local night-life. At a meeting of the parents, can Albin play the role of his life to ensure Jean-Michel can marry his love?
Directed by Martin Connor, Fierstein and Herman's lavishly humorous tale of unconditional love and family values reckons life’s not worth a damn "till you can say I am what I am" in a show boasting such songs as The Best Of Times, Song On The Sand and I Am What I Am, a number recorded by the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett.
Adrian Zmed is "overjoyed to be here, playing the UK for the first time". "I have lots of fans over here from doing the T.J. Hooker series!" he says. "Playing Georges in La Cage Aux Folles all came from Bill Kenwright. I did the Narrator for him in Blood Brothers in the 1990s, first with the Cassidy brothers and Petula Clark and then with Carole King in her first shot at acting, where I was in awe of her and yet she was asking 'Is that OK?'. So I'm thinking, 'OK, here I am, teaching Carole King to act'!!"
Kenwright had always wished to bring Zmed to Britain to reprise the Narrator's role. "Sadly, I was never available when he asked me, but I know he's had a life-long ambition to do La Cage Aux Folles over here and he always wanted me to do it from the moment I did Blood Brothers," says Zmed.
"I'd always fancied playing Georges but I never knew how much I'd enjoy it till I did it and I'm loving it! He's like P J Barnum, trying to keep everything going amid all the conflict."
La Cage Aux Folles is on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre, tomorrow until Saturday, and Grand Opera House, York, May 30 to June 3. Box office: Leeds, 0844 848 2700 or leedsgrandtheatre.com; York, 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york