David Engel brings heart to ‘La Cage aux Folles’
David Engel is no stranger to the Broadway or the San Diego stage. Some of his Broadway credits include PUTTING IT TOGETHER (opposite Carol Burnett), SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL, and the original Broadway production of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES In San Diego he just completed a run as Harold Hill in The Music Man at the Moonlight Amphitheater and returns to the San Diego Musical Theater stage as Albin in their current production of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES .
David was in the original production on Broadway 32 years ago as one of the cagelles (one of the dancers in the club) which is an amazing way to be introduced and experience a show.
“I was 23, and it was my first Broadway show. It was the greatest experience as far as a first time experience. It was an incredible hit at the time, Arthur Laurents, Jerry Herman, and Harvey Fierstein all on hand and putting the whole thing together was really a blessed experience. It went beautifully and ran for 4 ½ years on Broadway. Most of us stayed with it that whole time. I always thought I would grow up then, I was a strictly a dancer, and could sing, and hadn’t had much acting but always thought I would grow up and one day play Georges.”
Yet, it was the role of Albin that David has had the pleasure of performing over the years.
“This is my third time to play Albin now. I’ve never played Georges, but I thought I was just more the type for Georges. But the reason I did Albin the first time 13 years ago was because Jerry Herman requested me to come do it. I had turned it down because I was doing something else and thought ‘Oh no, I am not right for that part’ but Jerry Herman came on board said “what about David?” They called me back and told me that Jerry really wanted me to do it. Jerry has been my champion doing this role ever since.”
So after playing this role multiple times, is there a moment that he looks forward to performing even after all this time?
“My favorite thing to do with this character is the act one closer “I am what I am”” I watched George Hearn do it every night and that is kind of a template I use. But my first director who directed this show and I was having a hard time in rehearsals and he helped me find this…This is just him, stripped down, and you’re speaking from this very hurt person, not some grand drag diva. Within that song he finds strength within himself and I absolutely love that moment.”
More than just being a great song, David loves this song for the power it has to touch anyone who hears it.
“It is fresh every night, it has got real powerful emotion attached to it and it’s a real honor to sing that song. It is a great Broadway musical theatre anthem. It is an anthem for anybody about being who they are no matter what it is, to have pride in who you are… It’s such an incredible honor to sing something with that kind of power.”
Ultimately, it is the power and the heart of this show that brings it back time and time again.
“This show is originally based on a French farce, so these characters are broad characters but it has really heart to it. It has real heart to it and it all comes down to love and family. The characters can be broad but they really just have to be grounded in reality. There are some very heartfelt, sweet, loving and tender moments in but it the characters have be honest. I is a fantastic show and I have great tenderness and affection for this show.”
Come see David and the rest of the cast of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES playing September 25 – October 11, 2015 at the Spreckles Theatre. Show times are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and ticket information contact the Administrative Office at 858-560-5740 or visit SDMT online at www.sdmt.org
Photo Credit: San Diego Musical Theatre