The all-male chorus line that opens this touring revival of the musical that arguably took drag culture into the mainstream look like a troupe of high-kicking angels as they sashay in formation down the glitzy looking steps of the French night-club that gives composer Jerry Herman and writer Harvey Fierstein's creation its title. Drawn from a 1973 play by Jean Poiret and adapted for the screen five years later, Herman and Fierstein's musical take on Poiret's story hit the big time just as AIDS was making its deadly presence felt.
Something of a sleeper hit because of that, Herman and Fierstein's tale about club-owning Georges and star diva Albin, a long-term gay couple who are forced to jump through social hoops to appear 'normal' to their son's prospective in-laws is both a high-camp farce and accidental show of strength. This loose-knit plot is also the best excuse to gift the world one of the great gay anthems in I Am What I Am.
Martin Connor's glam-looking production allows John Partridge to storm the stage in full diva mode as Albin. His extended first half routine with the audience is a particular treat, even if he seems to have stepped out of the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club rather than French cafe society. Adrian Zmed makes the perfect foil as Georges, and Marti Webb provides strong support as Jacqueline. In a show that's about standing up to intolerance while reserving the right to be different, it's a flashy, trashy, loud and – eventually – proud affair. Despite its period roots, it remains a fearless show of defiance in an ignorant world.
The Herald, March 9th 2017