Music Theater Works’ ‘La Cage aux Folles’ revival meets actors’ long-held ambitions
You could say that by performing in Music Theater Works’ revival of “La Cage aux Folles”, Ginger Minj and Dane Strange are making up for missed opportunities.
Minj, who plays Albin, an aging drag performer who stars in her husband’s nightclub revue, was slated to play the role years ago in a community theater production in Florida. That production was canceled after city officials balked at doing a show about a gay family, said Minj, who was disappointed but admitted that at 18 the role wasn’t suitable.
It’s a perfect fit now.
“At 37, I truly understand history as being fiercely devoted to my family and fiercely devoted to the art of drag,” said the two-time ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ finalist.
During his senior year at college, Strange was set to play Jacob, George, and Albin’s butler, but things didn’t work out.
Dane Strange plays Jacob, the butler, in Music Theater Works’ “La Cage aux Folles”.
After 10 years, the Palatine resident – a veteran of Theater Nebula and Music on Stage – finally has the opportunity to play the part.
The Music Theater Works production marks the professional theater debut of the New Jersey native, who began his career at age 7 on the Disney Channel educational series “Out of the Box.” Commercials and TV spots followed. But the moment he began studying theater arts at Somerset County Vocational and Technical High School, Strange decided his place was on stage.
Like Strange, Minj has been performing since childhood. At six months, she played a “Fiddler on the Roof” baby. She grew up doing community theater.
“I liked theater better, but I was more suited to musicals,” said Minj, a veteran of Chicago’s famed Baton Show Lounge, which has featured drag performers for more than 50 years.
“La Cage aux Folles”, which premiered in 1984 – the year Minj was born – was a big part of her life and holds a special place in her heart.
Jason Richards, left, plays Georges and Ginger Minj plays his partner, Albin, in Music Theater Works’ revival of ‘La Cage aux Folles’, through April 3 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts.
– Courtesy of Trevor Beaty
Regardless of the audience’s reaction, the tuner “sparks a conversation and gets things done,” she said, adding, “I’ve always thought that art and artists are the ones who really drive change. in the world”.
Despite her fondness for the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein musical, Minj turned down repeated requests to play Albin because she felt theaters did not understand the role of pick-up in the show. But after talking to Music Theater Works artistic director and producer Kyle A. Dougan, she signed on.
“He (Dougan) said the story was about family,” said Minj, who then realized that “we’re coming to this from the same place.”
“I’ve never seen a successful production like this,” Minj said. “It tells the story in a new way while keeping everything you love about the original.”
Music Theater Works’ revival of “La Cage aux Folles” features “RuPaul’s Drag Race” runner-up Ginger Minj.
– Courtesy of Trevor Beaty
Additionally, the musical can be a way to introduce the LGBTQ+ community to people who may not know it, Minj said, showing them “that we’re as much a family as they are with our quirks, with our idiosyncrasies, with our drama and with our love… We are the same.”
For Strange, “La Cage aux Folles” is about acceptance: self-acceptance and acceptance of others. And while things have improved for members of the LGBTQ+ community, the battles remain.
“I had my own personal struggles as a black, gay man,” said Strange, who found Jacob’s role more difficult than he expected until he concluded that he had to accept himself.
“I am what I am,” said Strange, referring to the show’s iconic anthem. “We are what we are.”
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“The Crazy Cage”
When: 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 1 p.m. Wednesday, until April 3
Where: Music Theater Works at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, (847) 673-6300 or musictheaterworks.com
Tickets: $19.50 to $106
COVID-19 precautions: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test and masks required