First published on 28 Jun 2012. Updated on 9 Jul 2012.
Actor/comedian Darius Tan has watched numerous film versions of the musical La Cage aux Folles. ‘So many people, younger and older, have played the lead character Albin, [who in turn] plays gorgeous drag diva Zaza in the [eponymous] nightclub. All so different, but mostly fabulous. Of course I wanted to play Albin,’ smirks the slick, moustachioed thirtysomething, who’s played women on many occasions, including a critically acclaimed outing as Widow Wonky in last year’s pantomime, Aladdin.
Tan has landed a part in the Singapore production of La Cage, but it’s his one-time director, W!ld Rice head honcho Ivan Heng, who’s playing Albin. Tan’s playing Albin’s direct opposite: the ultraconservative politician who hates the infamous club, and whose daughter Albin’s adopted son wants to marry. ‘My character’s originally called Edouard Dindon, but this production’s been modernised and localised. La Cage will be a club in Tanjong Pagar, and my character’s called DD Tan. Like one other local politician named Tan,’ he grins.
Despite having harboured ambitions to take the lead role, Tan’s not particularly disappointed at missing out on playing Albin. ‘Think the drag queen puts on an act? She’s just a typical Asian mother who gets hurt when her son is ashamed of her,’ he reasons. ‘Meanwhile, DD has almost [exaggerated Asian values that are] untypical for 2012 – and compared to Albin, who is proud of who he is, republican Tan always has an image to uphold, secrets to hide. I find it amusing watching politicians on the news. And I’ve taken it on myself to help people see the comedy too.’
Plus, Tan is Heng’s understudy for the role of Albin. ‘I doubt I’ll get to do it – “Sir” Ivan Heng will go on, no matter what!’ Tan jokes. ‘I’m just happy to be in the show. Come see the Esplanade transform into a full-on drag club! In the end, even conservative audiences will realise La Cage is just a story about love and family.’
La Cage aux Folles is at Esplanade Theatre from 20 Jul-4 Aug.