They weren’t technically married, of course, since same sex marriage was strictly verboten when Brooklyn-born Harvey Fierstein (book writer for “Newsies” currently on Broadway) wrote the book for “La Cage Aux Folles.” But the musical’s two main characters — a transvestite dubbed Zaza and his merely gay partner named Georges — aren’t all that different from the rest of us long-wedded couples. They’re facing sacrifices for a child raised together, empty nest syndrome, everyday squabbles and the swift pace of time.
A revival of “La Cage Aux Folles” featuring George Hamilton as Georges and Christopher Sieber as Albin (aka Zaza) is currently on tour — and opened Tuesday night at ASU Gammage in Tempe. The marvels of Arizona weren’t lost on the spunky drag queen who did a bit of pre-show entertainment. Seems no one raised a hand when asked about black Jewish lesbians in the audience, prompting the performer to praise our state for its diversity in marvelously mocking fashion.
Such is “La Cage Aux Folles” — a show unappreciated by the timid yet adored by theater trollips. It’s showy, over-the-top (and sometimes nearly-nothing-on-top) fare full of outrageous humor about life’s little imperfections. Though some surely consider its subject matter profane, few musicals speak as convincingly of the sacred nature of family.
The musical opened on Broadway nearly three decades ago, yet it’s especially relevant nowadays as gay couples seek the right to be legally wed. But never fear. This is no mere morality tale. It’s a splashy bit of musical theater that left me feeling Tuesday night like I’d been transported straight to Broadway.
Lizabeth donned her purple “I’m Not Dead Yet” t-shirt for the occasion, an homeage to Sieber’s “Spamalot” gig. He’s also appeared in “Shrek” — but Lizabeth remembers him best as the widowed father in “Two of a Kind.” Think ABC meets Olsen twins. She was especially excited to meet Sieber after the show, and I’m wishing now that we’d brought along a beach ball and thick Sharpie pen. You’ll get the ball reference once you’ve seen the show.
From start to finish, everything about this production of “La Cage Aux Folles” is magnificent. Lush lighting (Nick Richings), set (Tim Shortall) and costume design (Matthew Wright). Flawless hair and make-up design (Richard Mawbey). Kicky orchestrations and dance arrangements (Jason Carr). And a live band whose trumpet player gets plenty of toes tapping.
I especially enjoyed Sieber’s performance. The man is funny beyond belief. Also vocals by Michael Lowney, who plays the couple’s son Jean-Michel. His request that Georges and Albin straighten up their act to impress his finance’s conservative parents is at the heart of “La Cage Aux Folles.” In the end, they do plenty of housecleaning.
Lizabeth suggested the show is best for “mature” 13-year-olds and up. Though things like whips and pasties might go right over the little ones’ heads amidst all the rhinestones and ostrich feathers. It’s best, I suspect, to take just the high school and up set. Or a couple of girlfriends decked out in feather boas and sparkly ankle bracelets.
Note: Lizabeth also recommends “The Birdcage,” a hilarious film version of the “La Cage Aux Folles” story starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (also Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest), and featuring music by Stephen Sondheim.
Coming up: Pandora tales, Art meets oncology.