REVIEW: La Cage Aux Folles Blackpool Opera House

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The Best Of Times Is Now - brilliant, joyous, a real foot-tapper - and it brought the audience to its feet after almost three hours of camp fun that has found its perfect backdrop in Blackpool.

Drag artistes, peacock feathers, spangly costumes - and a show-stealing performance from “leading lady” John Partridge combined to create a sense of exuberance that was contagious.

Best known, apparently, for his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders, Manchester actor John was clearly emotional as the curtain fell on opening night of this all-week run that attracted a close to capacity audience to the stalls, but left far too many seats going begging in the rafters.

To be fair it was a miserable drizzly evening. But this is a hoot of a show designed to lure even the most serious of souls to the naughty table.

The most famous of this little-performed musical’s numbers, I Am What I Am, is a solo standout while the rest give a vocally competent cast the chance to deliver as the story plays out at a cabaret bar in St Tropez.

The club’s gay owner, Georges, played by Adrian Zmed, conspires with his straight son Jean-Michele (don’t ask) to fool the latter’s future in-laws. The comedy of errors that ensues as the hapless bunch attempt to conceal their outrageous lifestyle from the straight-laced couple is littered with amusing asides from the assured Mr Partridge, who clearly relishes his role as the teary, wronged Albin.

Whether hand to forehead on his leopard print chaise or bigging it up in high heels and full Marilyn costume, sporting Gwen Stefani red lippy and belting out a defiant tune, he milks sympathy in the out-there style of Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, the hit film set in Miami but based on the same Harvey Fierstein book.

Here, the French restaurant owned by Jacqueline - West End favourite Martin Webb - is lovingly created on this big stage, on which a superb ensemble of “showgirls” help bring an effervescent musical to life in sparkling seaside style.

The show runs until Saturday and tickets are available from the Winter Gardens Box Office.

HAIDEE WILSON