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La Cage aux Folles: We chat to young Aussie Linden Furnell about strutting his stuff on Singapore’s stage

 

On 18 June, rehearsals begin for Wild Rice’s new production of La Cage aux Folles, based on the original 1983 Broadway musical hit that won six Tony awards, including Best Musical. As usual, you can expect a few wickedly local twists from Wild Rice, and we can’t wait to see the legendary Ivan Heng in the role of Albin.

Verne Maree caught up with multi-talented young Aussie expat LINDEN FURNELL, getting ready to strut his stuff as one of the Cagelles, the chorus line of “beautiful and rather dangerous” showgirls that perform at La Cage aux Folles nightclub.

 

What do you have to do to get a role like this?

You show up to the audition and dance as sexy as a straight white male can. Fortunately, I have a real sensual pout.

What brought you to Singapore in the first place?
I was really sick of my day job and had constant urges to burst into song, so in 2009 I came here to join the Musical Theatre course at Lasalle. I’ve just handed in my final thesis, and have a few more dance and acting assessments and our industry showcase, and that’s it!

How do you view yourself primarily – actor, dancer, singer, songwriter, guitarist?

Before I started training in Musical Theatre I was primarily a singer and songwriter, playing with a rock trio in Sydney. Those will always be my strengths, but I’ve been working intensively on acting and dance for three years now, so the plan is to have a pretty even skill set.

What are your major strengths?

The dirty double entendre is one – I think my best skill is shocking people with bad and/or tasteless jokes. Otherwise, I’m a pretty good guitarist, singer and general entertainer.

What are you most looking forward to in this role?

Learning how the hell to navigate the stage in heels.

What do you think will be the greatest challenge?

Learning how the hell to navigate the stage in heels.

What else can we look forward to seeing you wearing?

That should be more like, what can you look forward to not seeing me wear on stage? But seriously, you probably won’t recognise me underneath a layer of stunningly beautiful makeup. I haven’t seen the costumes yet, but we have a great dressmaker so you can expect some pretty outrageous stuff.

Have you met the other cast members?

A few, but some of them are flying in from other countries. I live with one of the cast members, Taryn Erickson. (She’s an actual woman.)

Have you worked with the star Ivan Heng and producer Tony Trickett before?

Not professionally … ha ha, no not at all. I’ve devoted my life like a stage-starved nun to the abbey that is Lasalle. But their reputation precedes them, and I’m sure looking forward to the experience!

How was your Lasalle course?

Lasalle has been responsible for the most difficult and the most rewarding events of my life. Musical Theatre is an intensive three years and requires complete dedication. Pursuing performing can be a real doozy on your self-esteem if you’re not ready for constant critique. Overall, though, it was the best choice I could have made. It got me out of a rut and pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

What is your dream role?

I’ve never really had one, but when I’m old and crusty I’d love to play Sweeney Todd.

We hear you have your sights set on London’s West End. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Without a worry about where my next meal is coming from, I hope. I would love to tour a few shows for the experience and travel opportunities, but eventually I would love to put on an original show of my own.

 

Synopsis

Enter the world of La Cage aux Folles, a glitzy nightclub in Tanjong Pagar where George (Tony Eusoff) plays host and Albin (Ivan Heng), his longtime partner, headlines its world-famous cabaret as the fabulous diva, Zaza.

Both on and off the stage, life seems perfect for the couple. But their happiness is threatened when George’s son, Jean-Michel (Aaron Khaled), announces that he’s getting married to the daughter of Mr D.D. Tan (Darius Tan), Chairman of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party, whose stated aim is to close down all the drag cabarets in the area.

What drama will ensue when Jean-Michel brings his fiancée’s conservative father and mother for a “meet-the-parents” session? This musical comedy classic has been described as a true celebration of family and love.

Hossan Leong should be a scream in the part of Jacob, George and Albin’s butler; also look out for Karen Tan as Mrs D.D. Tan and Judy Tan as the Kopitiam Aunty.

La Cage’s glorious score includes “I Am What I Am”, recorded most famously by both Dame Shirley Bassey and Gloria Gaynor.

 

Wild Rice’s La Cage aux Folles runs at the Esplanade Theatre from 20 July to 4 August 2012. Early bird discounts from 21 May to 13 June. Tickets from Sistic.

www.sistic.com.sg

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