Arts Reviews

Review of La Cage aux Folles

By Amy Somensky Dec 9, 2004, 8:49 GMT

How will the world view a musical concerning gay men in today’s society of Will and Grace and Queer Eye For the Straight Guy? The shock may be gone, but the debate is still fresh and pertinent in today’s day.

The original Broadway production of La Cage aux Folles opened on Broadway in 1983 and garnered six Tony awards. It was the first openly gay musical. Musicals always contained gay men, but now the characters were gay. That production had no kissing and little contact. Twenty-one years later things have changed. This time around, there is touching, caressing, and kissing. Perhaps the world is ready for it now.

Gary Beach and Daniel Davis
La Cage aux Folles is French for “The Birdcage,” which is the name of the nightclub the musical is set in. In this club the fabulous ZaZa is the headlining act. Behind the glamorous dresses, Albin lives with his partner Georges. Together they have raised Georges son from a one night stand, Jean Michel, into a intelligent young man. Jean Michel has just broken the news that he is getting married to gasp! A woman, and Anne, and her parents are coming to meet them. The problem is Anne’s father is the most conservative politician in all of France. If it were up to him, he would abolish all immoralities. Even though Albin is like a mother to him, Jean Michel does not want him around to meet his future in-laws.

Jerry Herman’s score is not Sondheim quality, but it is light and fun. The song “I Am What I Am” is the signature piece of the show. It is an anthem for acceptance. After being told that Jean Michel does not want him to meet his future in-laws, Albin tries to go on with his act, but cannot and throws the others off the stage and tears his wig off, and declares he will not change for anyone. He is who he is. It is an assertion of identity that will always be powerful. The number “Masculinity” is hilarious. Georges and the townspeople try to “butch” Albin up.

Gary Beach as ZaZa

Harvey Fierstein’s book is simple, but works. It fits very well with the direction by Jerry Zaks since the best parts of the musical come from the jokes and one liners and how they are delivered.

Gary Beach is hilarious and wonderful as Albin. His performance of “I Am What I Am” brings down the house. I give him credit for just getting into ZaZa’s fabulous wardrobe. I had heard a lot about Gavin Creel before, but never heard him perform, and I have to say he has a lovely voice. Michael Benjamin Washington particularly shines as Jacob, the butler, who wants to be known as the maid. He delivers some great one-liners.

Look at those Legs!
Jerry Mitchell’s choreography in this show is out of this world. A lot of the musical is the nightclub act, and these men, The “Les Cagelles,” are so phenomenal that they need to be named. T. Oliver Reed, Christopher Freeman, Eric Otte, Nathan Peck, Brad Musgrove, Josh Walden, Joey Dudding, Jermaine R. Rembert, Charlie Sutton, Andy Pellick, Will Taylor, and Paul Canaan all play female dancers. They do things that most women can’t do, and they have legs better than most women.

Some call La Cage aux Folles a gay musical. But what really is a gay musical? This musical is really about personal acceptance and human dignity, something we all strive for. No one, especially not a musical can change peoples minds, but it would be nice if everyone would realize that family values are created by families and not by the politicians who claim they are protecting them. Harvey Fierstein, book writer, once said, “ We have to get the concept out of our minds that love and commitment and family are heterosexual rights. They’re not. They’re people’s rights.

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