Revival of 'La Cage aux Folles' features Point Park graduate
Published: Monday, March 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09
Ten years ago, Mark Roland was a Point Park University dance major training hard to rise to the top.
Now audiences across the country can see him dancing in the national tour of La Cage aux Folles.
The Broadway revival of La Cage is making its way across the country with its next stop in Pittsburgh, where it will show at the Benedum Center from March 13 to 18.
La Cage aux Folles, which is the revival of the original 1983 production, tells the story of nightclub owner Georges, played by George Hamilton, and his partner Albin, played by Christopher Sieber, who is also known as the drag queen, Zaza. Together, the two run the drag club Saint Tropez. The story follows the pair as Georges’ son comes to visit with his new fiancee, whose conservative parents want to meet the glitzy, unconventional family.
Roland, who graduated from Point Park in 2003, plays Hanna, one of Les Cagelles, the dancers and chorus line of the Saint-Tropez. This is his first national tour, although he acted in two other regional productions of the show in Florida.
“This actual show production itself is different. All of the other productions I have been in have been big and showy,” Roland said March 5 in a phone interview. “This one is more personal because there are only six Cagelles, so we all shine in our own way.”
Roland, originally from Rochester, N.Y., explained how this tour is not only a great way for him to see and explore the country, but also how amazing it is to work with the people he is performing with.
“During bows, I stand there holding hands and bowing with Christopher [Sieber] and George [Hamilton]. It is a very surreal experience,” Roland said. “The first couple times, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’”
When Roland’s agency told him about the audition for La Cage, he knew he wanted to audition for it. Although the process was long, and there were many call-backs, Roland kept at it.
“Anything that I could have done to stand out and show my personality, I did,” Roland said. “Personality is a big part of this, and as long as you can show that and aren’t afraid to show it on stage, you have a good chance of getting the part.”
His personality plan of attack worked as Roland has played the role of Hanna about eight times a week around the nation since last fall.
This demanding schedule is one that stage manager Karyn Meek finds to be fulfilling for everyone in the production.
“It’s not an easy life, but it’s a fun one,” Meek said during a phone interview March 2.
Meek also works as stage manager at the Pittsburgh CLO theater and feels strongly about working on this particular show.
“I’m very proud to bring this show and story across the country,” Meek said. “It’s important that people are entertained, and along the way, being able to spread the message of people being able to love who they want to love. This show is different for me because I’m actually at the end of the day able to say I’m proud of not only what we’re doing but what we’re saying. “
Meek not only spoke highly of the show and the message it brings to audiences, but of the actors and actresses that perform in it. She explained how they make it easy for audiences to embrace them and love them, especially the actors of Les Cagelles.
“What they put themselves physically through every night is so difficult, and you just look at them dancing in their heels and just think, ‘Ow, I am woman and I don’t know if I could do that,’” Meek said.
The Les Cagelles compose one of Meek’s favorite parts of the show, and she was nothing less than impressed with Roland’s part from the beginning of the tour.
“Mark is one of our newer ones and that could have been very hard, but he immediately jumped right in and was up to speed very quickly,” Meek said. “In the beginning, he was right in there showing his personality and his talent and his performance background.”
Roland credits this performance background to Point Park, which helped him work on both his voice and dance training.
During his years at Point Park, Roland danced in many of the school’s productions, including professor Douglas Bentz’s The Jazz Nutcracker and a few of his other productions.
Bentz, originally from Pittsburgh, remembers Roland as a student well and how he matured as a dancer.
“He was great, a diamond in the rough and very eager to learn,” Bentz said during a phone interview March 6. “He was very intelligent and worked for himself. Some students need to be constantly prodded, but he was there to work and didn’t need tender love and care.”
Bentz was excited to hear about Roland’s role in the show and was not surprised to hear that he was doing well with his career. Bentz knew that it was Roland’s personality that would help him to succeed.