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La Cage Aux Folles (2010) – Broadway Musical Review

 

THEY ARE WHAT THEY ARE

 

picture - La Cage Aux Folles - Kelsey Grammer, Douglas Hodge - - photo by Joan MarcusTheater Review

by Cindy Pierre 

published April 25, 2010 

 

La Cage Aux Folles

now playing on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre

 

The spectacle is as colorful and as glitzy as they come in the Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles.  Chests swell equally with gusto as they do with padding.  Sparkles abound, thrown down by gyrations that excite and astound.  Long, lean legs stretch beyond science. 

 

Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman's fruitful, 1983 collaboration makes a remarkable return with a sassy, energetic ensemble that works hard for every moment of their inclusion.  Yet, it's only when their feathers part that the true attraction is revealed.  La Cage Aux Folles may be a drag fiesta of dance and song, but it's the story of a tender, long-term marriage at its heart that's the prevailing star.

 

picture - La Cage Aux Folles - Douglas HodgeWhile there is a lot of shimmer up there on the Longacre Theatre stage, some stars know exactly when to recede from the spotlight and let others shine.  Kelsey Grammer, playing the ever dramatic and occasionally hammy nightclub owner Georges, is one such star.  The haughty but impressive psychiatrist that Grammer played on NBC's Frasier is not completely shorn in this performance, but it does defer graciously to the Audrey Hepburn-esque Albin, the headliner in both his show and his heart, played by British actor Douglas Hodge.  Hodge, a classical actor known for his Shakespeare roles, settles into his Broadway debut playing the aging entertainer with formidable skill and femininity.  But while femininity reigns supreme in Zaza, the character that Albin embodies on stage, that persona is not welcome in everyone's world.

 

Enter Monsieur Dindon (Fred Applegate), Georges and Albin's anti-gay soon to be in-law.  The upcoming nuptials between their son Jean-Michel (A.J. Shively), a product of a one-night stand between Georges and a showgirl, and Dindon's daughter Anne (Elena Shaddow), is confounding to all but the young couple.  Confounding upgrades to hurtful when Jean-Michel asks his parents to straighten up for a night to create the illusion of a conservative upbringing.  Shenanigans ensue when Albin, the only real mother that Jean-Michel has ever known, refuses to go softly into the night. 

 

picture - La Cage Aux Folles - Kelsey Grammer - photo by Joan MarcusFrom the delicate interactions between Georges and Albin to the pain and rejection between Albin and Jean-Michel, La Cage Aux Folles is a portrait of the ups and downs in a family that transcends gender roles.  While most of the cast do appear in drag, the illusion created by the makeup and wigs doesn't hide the real face of the show.  Characters and plot lines, naturally written as such and metaphorically so, represent every aspect of a long-term marriage.  There are standard husband and wife roles inhabited by the leads, a son embarrassed by his parents and their attention, as well as another “son,” a personal assistant, hilariously played by Robin De Jesus, who can't seem to get enough attention.  Thematically, aging, a popular subject with a couple that have been together for a long time, plays a key role.  Everything in the extended family, including the fabulous variety acts and plentiful numbers, work together to balance home and professional life. 

 

picture - La Cage Aux Folles - Douglas Hodge - photo by Joan MarcusAlthough the segues into some of the songs are choppy and the running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes sometimes feels long, the remainder of the show is polished, thoroughly enjoyable and surprisingly inclusive of its patrons.  The anticipated experience at a drag show is usually one of amazement at the way in which the falsehoods are packaged.  Usually, one is titillated, but ultimately removed.  With La Cage Aux Folles, because the circumstances are authentic, you can identify with the purity of the emotions and emerge with far more than you had expected.

 

cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com

 

photos by Joan Marcus

 

 
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