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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
at Longacre Theatre

DRAMA QUEENS
By JESSICA BRANCH

  Ph: Joan Marcus

Drama, dancers, debauchery and a somewhat cockeyed celebration of family values: La Cage aux Folles comes into its own in this exuberant, bighearted production.

The story is set at the eponymous and outrageous transvestite nightclub run by the dapper Georges (Kelsey Grammer) and starring his high-maintenance British significant other, Albin (Douglas Hodge), as the femme fatale chanteuse Zaza. Their happy life in Saint-Tropez is interrupted when their son, Jean-Michel  (A.J. Shively), announces that he intends to marry the lovely Anne (Ellen Shaddow), whose father is a right-wing anti-gay politician (Fred Applegate). And (of course) he and his beaten-down wife (the underused Veanne Cox) are coming to dinner, so Jean-Michel expects Georges to straighten the place up—pun intended—which means temporarily replacing Albin with Jean-Michel’s biological mother.

Originally adapted as a musical by Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book) in 1983, La Cage’s feel-good farce, robust humor and serviceable songs hold up surprisingly well. Indeed, the show may seem timelier today than ever as a poster-play for gay marriage. Its focus is firmly on the staunch love between its two middle-aged protagonists – the ingénues are an afterthought by comparison. And what the play may have lost in irony, this production makes up in charm. Despite the squabbling and the scene-throwing, the ultimate message of love, tolerance and family could hardly be more wholesome – or more irresistibly conveyed. Best of all, the two leads portray their devoted duo with a wit and warmth sure to move an audience of any preference. A trim Grammer plays the genial Georges with suavity and sincerity, and Hodge is a knockout no matter how he’s dressed. During “A Little More Mascara,” he actually transforms into Zaza before our very eyes, though it’s not till the play’s end that we get to see his ultimate metamorphosis.

But director Terry Johnson knows that sweet things can come in sexy packages, so while he wisely retains all the warmth, he gleefully ramps up both the wit and the weirdness to spectacular effect. The glitz and grit of the nightclub are both on full display as we see both the fabulous onstage numbers and the backstage fireworks as Albin indulges in fits of temperament that threaten to stop the show – literally. And rarely does a Broadway chorus look like it’s having so much fun, but rarely is it so festively equipped. The feathered headdresses, the sequin-spangled costumes, the platform roller skates, the dominatrix gear – all lend to the magic. But more than anything the sheer exuberant, athletic, over-the-top dancing (choreographed by Lynne Page) is a joy to behold for even the most jejune Broadway audience.

The supporting actors appear to be having just as good a time. Robin De Jesus is a scene stealer as Albin’s starstruck Latino maid, and Christine Andreas as Jacqueline, the forceful proprietress of a fashionable restaurant, makes herself memorable even amidst all the masculine finery. They all contribute to the sense of a community that’s as crazy and affectionate as the central couple itself – and if that’s too happily-ever-after for your taste, well, that’s the way all fairy tales end.

 


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