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photo by Paul Kolnik


Chris Sieber and George Harrison
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photo by Paul Kolnik

 

Rosalind Marmel

George Hamilton and Chris Sieber ingrain a life lesson for all in La Cage Aux Folles

By Rosalind Marmel, LA correspondent, July 18, 2012, updated July 22, 2012

Los angeles-The audience had so much fun. The cast had at least as much fun at opening night of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s, "La Cage Aux Folles", on July 11th at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater.

It was not all about fun though, for this musical. This is a time when courts and voters are determining who can marry and who cannot, who can be a family and who cannot, who can be a parent and who cannot.

With his signature tan and engaging charisma, actor George Hamilton welcomes us to an evening at the St. Tropez transvestite night club above which he and his "wife" Albin played by the lovable, show stealer Chris Sieber, live with their butler-maid, Jacob played by Toronto’s Jeigh Madjus, another show stealer.

George introduces us to the six "Cagelles" singing what has become the international anthem for Gay rights, "We Are What We Are".

Moments later as part of the Cagelles routine the audience finds itself engaged in a kind of beach volley ball game as giant beach volley balls are tossed into and around in the audience.

Definitely fun.

As the show progresses the Jerry Herman lyrics stay with us and through all the fun and laughter, we do have to think: "We face life though it’s some times sweet and some times bitter. Face life, with a little guts and lots of glitter."

This is a story about family and how family comes in many shapes, forms, and genders.

Michael Lowney plays Jean-Michel, the biological son of George. His biological mother had left years before and Albin, as George’s transvestite "spouse" lovingly mothered Jean-Michel.

Everything is just fine until Jean comes home and tells his father that he is about to marry Anne, (Allison Blair McDowell), the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician known for his rigid views of traditional family values. Anne and her mother and father will be arriving within a matter of hours to stay with and meet the very normal family Jean led them to believe he has.

At the same time he tells George that he has arranged for his biological mother to be there acting as if she and George are happily and traditionally married and that he wants Albin to disappear until the visit is over.

George is aghast but unable to get him to change his mind. He stalls telling Albin who predictably is devastated that Jean would want him concealed after he "mothered" him and supported him with maternal love since his childhood.

The first act ends with Sieber rendering one of the most impassioned renditions of, "I Am Who I Am", that I have heard.

We went into intermission laughing and jovial but also hit by the timeliness of the lyrics, "Life’s not worth a damn, til you can say, ‘hey world, I am what I am.’"

Albin is also unable to get Jean-Michel to change his mind. George’s ex-wife shows up but vanishes just before Anne and her parents arrive.

Albin decides he will attend the meet the parents dinner as Jean’s uncle Al. Probably the funniest scene is when George with some help tries to get Albin to exchange his feminine mannerisms when walking, talking, sitting, etc. for a set that is more masculine. They try to do this by having him mimic John Wayne.

Dinner starts off well. Uncle Al charms Anne’s mother. Jacob burns the entrée so rapidly reservations are made at the hottest restaurant in St. Tropez, Chez Jacqueline.

The audience infectiously joined in, humming during the singing of "The Best of Times." "The best of times is now. As for tomorrow well, who knows, who knows?"

The antics continue. Uncle Al is outed. Anne’s father happens to have some old history with Jacqueline, well played by Gay Marshall.

They end up at the La Cage Aux Folles nightclub. Paparazzi and the press are outside having heard that Anne’s father is inside. To hide him from them he dresses in full drag and escapes as one of the performers.

The show was great. George Hamilton doesn’t pretend to be the best singer but he is a natural for the part. Chris Sieber was fabulous. The set design by Tim Shortall was simple but just right. The costume design by Matthew Wright was outstanding. Lynne Page’s choreography delighted. It doesn’t hurt that the Cagelles are professionally trained acrobats. Terry Johnson, as director couldn’t have done better.

La Cage Aux Folles received 9 Tony Award nominations in 1983, winning 6 including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book and ran for over 4 years. In 2004, its first Broadway revival won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

In 2008, it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival in London’s west end.

In 2010, it received 11 Tony Award nominations winning the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical making it the only musical, which has won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice and the only show in history that has won a Best Production Tony Award for each of its Broadway Productions.

In 1996, Mike Nichols adapted it into the zany and wildly popular movie, "The Birdcage."

In case you didn’t know and of interest is that in 1960 when Jerry Herman was making his Broadway debut he was asked to compose the score for a show about the founding of the state of Israel. This evolved into his first full scale Broadway musical, "Milk and Honey", starring Molly Picon.

La Cage Aux Folles runs at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles through July 22nd.

Tickets are available online at BroadwayLA.org or by calling 1-800-982-2787.

From July 24th to August 4th La Cage will play, not that far away at Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts in Costa Mesa, California. For tickets call: 714-556-2787 or go to SCFTA.org.

Days later you will also be humming and singing and laughing and thinking and reminding yourself that "life’s not worth a damn, til you can say, ‘hey world, I am what I am.’"

 

 

 
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