La Cage aux Folles has been entertaining audiences for almost 40 years, as a play, two movies and a Tony Award-winning musical. The reasons for the story’s enduring popularity are on plentiful display at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, where the touring version of the show’s latest Broadway revival runs through June 24.
With a lovely, moving score by Jerry Herman and witty book by Harvey Fierstein, director Terry Johnson’s grittier scaled-down La Cage delivers all of the musical’s laughs, its flashy cabaret numbers and its poignant story about love, pride and sacrifice.
That story centers on a family crisis for Saint-Tropez nightclub impresario Georges (George Hamilton) and his longtime partner and star Albin, aka Zaza (Christopher Sieber). The son they raised together, Jean-Michel (Michael Lowney), has come home to introduce his fiancée Anne (Allison Blair McDowell) and her parents to his folks. But he’s embarrassed by the flamboyant Albin, the only “mother” he’s ever known, because Anne’s judgmental Papa is a pro-family, anti-gay politician who has vowed to wipe out clubs like La Cage.
Sharper than a serpent’s tooth, Jean-Michel asks Georges to ask Albin to vanish for a day. That emotionally devastating request sets up the musical’s most powerful number, the prideful anthem that closes the first act. And to hear Sieber — dressed in glamorous drag as Zaza but singing as the deeply wounded, fierce Albin — perform I Am What I Am is genuinely transcendent theater.
The Broadway veteran is wondrous throughout La Cage, anchoring the show’s humor and touching truths. He is always commanding (even when he’s done up like Marilyn Monroe in The Seven-Year Itch), and his inventive choices in a role so many others have played make him fascinating to watch, start to finish.
Georges is supposed to be different from Albin, a bit more controlled, a lot less dramatic. But Hamilton and Sieber are a mismatch. The movie and TV veteran is a strikingly handsome, smiling, charming presence who doesn’t look 30 years older than Sieber, though he is. His singing voice and dance moves are passable, but the real trouble lies in his too-small, too-subtle acting. Performing in a musical, particularly one as bold and comedically bawdy as La Cage aux Folles, demands bigger, more powerful choices than the ones Hamilton makes.
Still, Sieber is surrounded by fine, flashy performers, particularly Jeigh Madjus as Jacob, the butler-maid and aspiring diva, and the toned, athletic, impossibly flexible dancers who serve as the chorus “girls,” Les Cagelles: Matt Anctil, Logan Keslar, Donald C. Shorter Jr., Mark Roland, Terry Lavell and Trevor Downey.
Quick-thinking cast member Todd Lattimore, done up like a ‘40s Fort Lauderdale pinup girl, does a hilarious pre-show warmup that gets the audience in a happy, receptive mood before the curtain goes up. Sieber and company keep them that way, right through to the sing-along finale. Once again, La Cage aux Folles proves it’s a show with legs. They just happen to belong to talented guys in dresses.