Yes, it's got an impressive Broadway history, a Hollywood incarnation (The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane), and a program containing reverential statements that position it on an institutional level akin to Rocky Horror. And yet, as far as I can see, Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman's concoction lacks any real bite or panache. Quite frankly, the songs are dull.
The story revolves around a gay couple, Georges and Albin, who own and run a drag club. Their 'son', Jean Michel, announces his engagement and that the in-laws are coming to visit. The only trouble is said in-laws are heterosexual, right-wing, anti-fun types, so Jean wants his biological mother there, rather than Albin. As ever, the lies snowball and all manner of farcical situations arise.
In his program spiel, Fierstein claims to have found the heart in the love story between Georges and Albin but, if that's true, you wouldn't know it here. Actors Jeremy Hobbs and Ian Casey turn in lazy performances. Glossing over every word of dialogue, without stopping to listen to one another, they seem to expect the laughs to come through no effort of their own.
In the midst of all the feathers and sequins, Hobbs' toupee even manages to upstage him. Casey gradually warms into the part of Albin and begins to come alive with the only decent solo in the show, "I Am What I Am", at the end of the first act. The only other stomachable performance is care of Donovan Carey, who is charming as the butler (or is it maid?) Jacob.
A catalogue of mistakes - in performances, scene changes (which lack urgency) and technical errors (the sound controller fiddles with mic levels throughout) - make the production feel amateurish.
The only respite is in the dance numbers. Mike Capri's choreography is solid and, what the chorus lack in polish, they make up for in sweat, admirably trying to lift the energy, particularly in the boisterous can-can number. Unfortunately, they're fighting a losing battle.
A warning to Corrie enthusiasts, even though Julie Goodyear gets top billing, she doesn't appear often - so stick to the re-runs. As for the rest of you, unless you are a die-hard fan I'd give it a miss.
- Hannah Khalil (reviewed at Wimbledon Theatre