Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
La Cage aux Folles
La Cage aux Folles has changed since 1983 when the show first opened on Broadway. Or maybe American culture has changed. On opening night in 1983, the show seemed to stand as a beacon for the gay-rights movement. We have moved beyond many of those basic issues and now, La Cage aux Folles seems to stand has a statement for the individual's rights. When I saw the show in 1983, I remember certain scenes or lines evoked gasps or sounds of surprise from the audience. That doesn't happen now.
This is a "message" play and the message seems to have been delivered long ago. What is left is a charming musical comedy of the old-fashioned stylesingers sing, actors say funny lines, the audience laughs and applauds and by the curtain call, everyone is sure to live happily ever after.
La Cage aux Folles has gone through several mutations. The musical, now playing in the Palace Theatre, PlayhouseSquare, Cleveland, is based on the French play of the same name by Jean Poiret. Harvey Fierstein (book) and Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) adapted the original to the musical version. Later, the story was adapted to the movie Birdcage, which ran with considerable success with Nathan Lane and Robin Williams in the leading roles.
This production has two remarkable leading men: Christopher Sieber (Albin) and George Hamilton (Georges). Sieber possesses a stunning voice. On opening night when he closed the first act with "I Am What I Am," he brought several members of the audience to their feet to cheer for his performance.
Hamilton's age is a factor in this performance. He's 72 and dances like a man 25 years younger (maybe his stint on "Dancing with the Stars" turned him into a dancing dandy). He isn't a bad singer. He has a thin voice and seems unsteady with his higher and lower notes. When he shares a stage with Sieber, he has to take the back seat. Hamilton is better known in the provinces than Sieber and, therefore, attracts more radio and TV interviews and the attention of those who follow matinee idols.
Sieber is about 30 years younger than Hamilton, yet they seem perfectly matched as life partners. They play their asides and dances as if they had been life partners for 30 years. In the story line, Georges owns La Cage aux Folles, a club that features drag shows. Albin is the star of the show. They've built a successful life together and raised Jean-Michael, Georges' son from a drunken experiment in sex.
Jean-Michael comes home from school to announce he's marrying Anne, the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician. When the in-laws to be arrive for dinner, the playwright creates moments of chaos and, then, touching moments of truth and honesty. The after-dinner entertainment in La Cage aux Folles quickly leads to the curtain call and one more opportunity for everyone to sing and dance.
This touring production is less than perfect, but it gives audience members a chance to lean back, relax and know they're being taken on a wonderful adventure by a first-rate cast.
La Cage aux Folles continues through November 20, 2011, at the Palace Theatre before moving to Boston for a run December 5-18, 2011. For ticket information for the Cleveland performances, telephone 216-241-6000. For information about the tour, visit www.lacage.com.
This production is part of the KeyBank Broadway Series. In the remainder of the season, the Broadway Series will offer Hair (January 17-29, 2012), Memphis (February 28-March 11, 2012), The Addams Family(April 10-22, 2012), Come Fly Away (May 8-20, 2012), Sondheim on Sondheim (May 16 - July 8, 2012) and "Mamma Mia! (July 13-22, 2012).
The Palace Theatre
Georges: George Hamilton
Assistant Dance Captain: Matt Anctil
- David Ritchey