Charles Spencer – The Telegraph
14th May 2009


Roger as Albin in
La Cage aux Folles

What a terrific couple of nights for the West End. At the start of the week, Roger Allam, surely Britain’s most versatile actor, proved sensational as the drag queen Albin in Terry Johnson’s exhilarating production of the musical La Cage aux Folles.

But, as if to prove that the West End isn’t just about sequins, ostrich feathers and high camp – though sometimes you might be forgiven for thinking so – Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman brought their deeply moving performances in Tom Kempinksi’s Duet for One to the Vaudeville. It was a reminder of just how blessed we are with great actors in this country.

If there were any justice, Allam would be a huge star rather than just one of the best and busiest actors in the game. It’s not just that he can turn his hand to anything – from superbly spoken Shakespearean verse to a harrowing modern drama like Blackbird, from a magnificently corrupt cop in the latest series of Ashes to Ashes to a glorious farce like Boeing Boeing – but he has terrific charisma and sings strongly, too. Whenever he is on stage, you know that you are in the safest of hands and that you will be royally entertained.

His Albin in Jerry Herman’s delightful musical is a masterclass in high camp, all outraged moues, furious asides and hilarious hissy fits.

Dressed in shocking pink, he puts one in mind of Barbara Cartland at her dottiest, only to reveal a touch of Margaret Thatcher’s steel a few seconds and a costume change later. But beyond the extravagant drag, Allam also captures the character’s underlying decency and generosity of heart – and his real love for his partner and his partner’s son, to whom Albin has always been surrogate mother.

With Philip Quast back in the cast as Albin’s lover and the club’s urbane master of ceremonies, and the chorus boys/girls as screamingly outrageous and brilliantly choreographed as ever, this remains one of the most blissfully entertaining shows on the London stage.