Few Broadway productions have as much glitz, glamour and heart as LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, Wilmington’s DuPont Theatre’s current touring show. Following the Tony Award-winning 2010 Broadway revival, The National Touring Company stars showbiz icon George Hamilton and Tony-nominated Christopher Sieber, with an unforgettable supporting cast that brings LA CAGE’s St. Tropez nightclub to life. The 1983 musical (based on a 1973 French play) remains as fresh and timely as ever (except, perhaps, for the use of the word “transvestite” instead of the more modern “drag queen”). If you’re unfamiliar with the story even after the film The Birdcage starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, it’s about a gay couple, Georges and Albin, who’ve been together for over 20 years, and who raised Georges’ biological son together. They run the glitzy drag nightcub, where Albin highlights the shows as the fabulous ZaZa. Their son, Jean-Michel, wants to marry the woman he loves, but her father happens to be a very conservative anti-gay politician. In order for Jean-Michel to get the blessing of his love’s father, he plans to hide Albin and pretend Georges and his long-absent biological mother are married. Not surprisingly, Albin doesn’t take it well.
Despite the emotional subject matter, LA CAGE is comedy, and a fantastic musical, dividing its time between the glitzy burlesque show and its storyline scenes. Sieber’s performance as Albin is both hysterically funny and heartbreaking. It’s really Albin’s story, and he owns every scene he’s in (though Jeigh Madjus as Albin’s maid, Jacob, steals moments throughout). George Hamilton is as charming as can be as Georges. Billy Harrigan Tighe makes a likable Jean-Michel — even when you really don’t like his behavior, which is most of the time, it doesn’t come off as intentionally malicious. Cathy Newman’s Mme. Renaud, the politician’s wife, and Gay Marshall as Jacqueline are also a joy to watch.
And then of course, there are Les Cagelles, the six beautiful and sometimes gloriously over-the-top chorus “girls,” whose performances accent the show as the story unfolds. They sing, they’re randy and acrobatic, and they’re a big reason the show is so awesome.
Though the story of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES goes back nearly 40 years, it strikes a definite chord today. Same-sex couples with children are not the anomaly they once were, and gay marriage and civil unions laws are becoming commonplace, but with gay unions becoming so accepted, there’s also a lot of pushback by some conservatives — not all conservatives, to be fair, but we all know that certain anti-gay politicians are out there this election year, trying to gain power. LA CAGE illustrates the human toll of such intolerance beautifully. When Albin — who himself wasn’t honest with his own parents about his relationship with Georges and is skittish about public displays of affection, even while wearing full eye makeup — sings “I Am What I Am” after learning of his “necessary” rejection by Jean-Michel, only the most hardened souls can see him as anything less than a person who’s been terribly wronged. But keep your chin up — making things right is a fun ride.
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Directed by Terry Johnson
Orchestration and Dance Arrangements by Jason Carr
Choreography by Lynne Page
March 6 – 11, 2012
The DuPont Building
Wilmington, DE 19801