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Sunday, 25 April 2010 13:30

Broadway Review: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

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Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge in La Cage aux Folles
Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge in La Cage aux Folles
Photo: Joan Marcus
If someone had told me that La Cage aux Folles would be the sweet surprise of the spring season, I'm not sure I would have believed them.  It's a slightly reinvented and scaled down version of the Jerry Herman, Harvey Fierstein musical, but one thing is for sure, this La Cage is more bawdy than either of its predecessors. 

In case you have somehow missed this musical in one of its many incarnations, Georges and Albin are long-time gay lovers who own a nightclub where Albin does a long-running drag show.  They have raised a son, Jean-Michel, a result of a previous dalliance on Georges' part.  Jean-Michel announces he is engaged to be married to the daughter of the Pat Robertson of the Riviera, the deputy Edouard Dindon.  They are coming to meet Jean-Michel's family and stay overnight.  The only problem is, they are expecting Jean-Michel to have a real mother and certainly do not expect his parents to own a club that violates deputy Dindon's sense of morality.

Starring as the two lovers are Kelsey Grammer as Georges and Douglas Hodge as Albin.  Hodge's Albin is quirky, rough hewn, funny, campy and engaging.  Grammer's Georges is a bon vivant and showman.  Grammer also has a pleasant singing voice which should come as no surprise to anyone who is a fan of "Frasier." You'll recall he sang the show's closing song.  Robin De Jesús, a Tony Award nominee for In the Heights, is Jacob the "maid" and handmaiden to Albin.  He is hilarious as he attends to Albin's every whim with a sarcastic aside. 

Douglas Hodge in La Cage aux Folles
Douglas Hodge in La Cage aux Folles
Photo: Joan Marcus

Terry Johnson has directed this piece with broad strokes on a scaled down canvas.  His La Cage aux Folles is less glossy and polished than the club in other productions.  This La Cage is a little more rough around the edges.  The cast has been pared down to a total of six Cagelles.  With these Cagelles no one will be confused as to their gender.  These are the beefiest drag queens I've ever seen and these boys work this show.

Jerry Herman's memorable score includes "Song of the Sand" which Grammer handles with panache and the showstopper "The Best of Times."  Hodge really can't sing but manages to hold his own with "I Am What I Am."

The producers have chosen a theatre with 500 fewer seats than the Marquis Theatre which hosted the last revival and 650 fewer seats than the Palace Theatre where the show premiered in 1983.  The stage is smaller and the attractive set design by Tim Shortall creates an intimate playing space.  He has created a false proscenium with boxes on either side which hold the eight piece ensemble and help to frame and focus the playing area.

This refreshing new take on La Cage aux Folles is a welcome addition to the musical revival category for this Broadway season.  Having been so disappointed in Bye, Bye, Birdie and Finian's Rainbow I had begun to lose hope in our ability to produce a decent revival of the classic American musical (with the exception being A Little Night Music).  Then again, perhaps I should be concerned, this production originated at London's Menier Chocolate Factory, who were also responsible for the critically acclaimed recent revival of Sunday in the Park with George

In the 1983 production of La Cage aux Folles Arthur Laurents, the show's original director made the decision to have no physical affection between Georges and Albin.  In his book "More Broadway Musicals," Martin Gottfried quotes Laurents saying back then "one kiss between these guys and half the house would have walked out."  Thankfully, our society has evolved a bit and the simple act of a same-sex kiss bothers fewer people than it used to.  The physical affection between the two men at the end of the show adds a lovely cherry on top of this delicious musical sundae.

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View full production credits at the Internet Broadway Database.

Last modified on Thursday, 02 September 2010 22:41