New York City Theater
"La Cage Aux Folles"
Of course "La Cage Aux Folles" is, by now, an old war horse, joining such musical comedy classics as "Oklahoma" or "My Fair Lady." The element of shock is long gone-first experienced in the beautifully understated French film which launched this cottage industry and again in the 1983 Broadway musical when two men were at last seen kissing on stage.
Not much can shock today. Homosexuality is no longer a carefully-kept secret. Thus one looks for other elements to make the musical revival fly. Jerry Herman's songs can always be called upon to do that. Who can resist his touching, tender love songs and theme songs which pulsate with sexuality? "The Best of Times" and "Song on the Sand" and "La Cage Aux Folles" still captivate those of us who are hopelessly in love with Jerry Herman.
The story is still charming, thanks to its antecedents in French film and to Harvey Fierstein's book. Georges runs a drag night club in St. Tropez, where his lover Albin stars as the dazzling transvestite Zaza. But years earlier, Georges, in a momentary one-night lapse, fathers a son---one Jean-Michel, raised lovingly by his "mother" Albin. When this son falls in love and must introduce his "parents" to the uptight in-laws-to-be, all bedlam ensues. Thus the gentle comedy explodes into farce.
As for this current revival at the Marquis, under Jerry Zaks' direction, it offers no ideas that move into new territory. But it does provide a solid framework for this first-class musical, with big, bouncy production numbers and fine performances all around. The all-male chorus girls are decked out in wild, flamboyant costumes of glitter, fur, and feathers, as they kick up a Rockette-style storm.
Playing club-owner Georges, Daniel Davis brings a strong, solid presence to the role-providing a nice balance to the hysterical, edgy Albin and other zanies on the scene. One such memorable character is Michael Benjamin Washington as the sometime butler/sometime maid. And Gary Beach, as Albin, gets it just right-carrying the performance to the very edge, but never going over the top.
In all, "La Cage Aux Folles" is a respectable revival of a beloved musical, for which we give thanks to Herman, Fierstein, the French, and all.
-- Irene Backalenick
Dec. 15, 2004