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La Cage Aux Folles

A New Georges: Robert Goulet

Robert Goulet
Robert Goulet
When personality problems reached the point of no return, Daniel Davis was abruptly fired. For a while audiences saw his understudy but in mid-April, an old musical theater hand, Robert Goulet, who made his name as Lancelot in Camelot almost half a decade ago stepped in. Apparently the new Georges and Albion are most compatible and so the show goes on. Goulet's still rich voice and enduring charm compensate for his not being the most agile dancer -- for that the show still has the Cagelles.And at age 71, almost 45 years after he became a star playing Lancelot in Camelot on Broadway, Goulet sings the role far better than Davis did. --Elyse Sommer -- May 6, 2005

I see someone who puts himself last so that you can come first
--- Georges, from "Look Over There."

Gary Beach & Daniel Davis
Gary Beach & Daniel Davis
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Going to a Broadway show is more and more a case of seeing one actor, often dressed in street clothes. No matter how talented and famous these soloists are, it's great to see the Marquis Theatre's stage teeming with a big cast decked out in glitzy costumes and singing and dancing up a storm to Jerry Herman's still hummable music. Vive le theatre of ooh-la-la oomph! Welcome back La Cage aux Folles!

You probably know the story from the Mike Nichols non-musical film, The Birdcage. Georges and Albion are two middle-aged homosexuals whose committed relationship plays out against the background of a St. Tropez night club named Cage aux Folle (George runs it and Albion is its transvestite star, the fabulous ZaZa). It no longer breaks new ground as it did during its 1,761 performance, Tony Award winning run twenty years ago. If written today, Jean-Michel, the product of George's one-night heterosexual fling to whom Albin has been a nurturing mother, would probably feel no need to hide his unusual family background from conventional in-laws to be.

Though it may seem dated, La Cage is timely as could be. Gender crossing performers are much in vogue and Albin and the high-kicking Cagelles, are no longer the only gown-clad, bewigged guys in the neighborhood. La Cage librettist, Harvey Fierstein, originated the role of Hairspray's Edna Turnblatt and Australia's favorite cross-dresser, Barry Humphreys, is once again proving that there's nothing like a dame named Edna Everage.

What still resonates about this love affair is the tender heart beating beneath all the razza-ma-tazz. What's more, the events that followed the Broadway run, make Georges' and Albin's monogamous relationship seem remarkably prescient. It's also ironically timely to have a show with "I Am What I Am" as it's big anthem endorse Family Values as firmly as any right wing, anti-gay marriage conservative group. Politics aside -- and La Cage was always intended as a feel-good musical entertainment rather than as an in-your-face political statement -- this revival once again makes St. Tropez the place to be for a rip-roaring good time.

The two lovers have found well-matched interpreters in Daniel Davis as the more male partner and Gary Beach as the temperamental Albin. Davis has one of those elegantly modulated speaking voices that is music to the ears even when he's not singing. But there's nothing sprech-stimme about his rich baritone. His "Song in the Sand" deserves its second act encore (this time with Albin). His homage to Albin's unstinting love, "Look Over There," tugs powerfully at your heartstrings.

Gary Beach, best known as Roger DeBris in The Producers, is adorable and touchingly heartbroken at being temporarily disowned by the young man he views as his son. Just watch his face when during George's "Look Over There." If he seems too often to be channelling Nathan Lane (Albin in The Birdcage), he's at least chosen a great role model.

The pony-tail spouting Gavin Creel and Angela Gaylor play the couple whose engagement prompts a visit to St. Tropez for a meeting between the incompatible parents. These young lovers, especially Gaylor, are somewhat innocuous compared to the more interesting and endearing older ones, but this is in large part due to the plot contrivance that turns the second act into a wild farce.

Much of the enjoyment from this dance and song filled evening is provided by the dozen long-stemmed Les Cagelles. Those who saw the original production may look in vain for a female or two tucked amid the men in drag as something of a cherchez la femme joke, but the all male ensemble does just fine. They execute Jerry Mitchell's energetic dance routines with élan -- from a flamboyant can-can to dazzling acrobatics in the super show-biz birdcage number. If there's one complaint it's that director Jerry Zaks allows some of the dances to go on too long, in the same way he fails to reign in some of the excessive slapstick.

William Ivey Long contributes to the visual flair with gorgeously gaudy costumes. He's also something of a magician, transforming one glittery dress worn by ZaZa into a sleek black velvet gown in the blink of an eye. Scott Pask's sets take us in and around St. Tropez, including a waterfront street scene, atmospherically lit by Donald Holder, and with an oversized moon for a final tender kiss for the two leads (probably a bow to today's more broad-minded audiences).

As mentioned earlier, this is a big cast; too big to detail contributions by performers like the somewhat underused but always welcome Ruth Williamson who here plays the busty proprietor of a fancy restaurant. Patrick Vaccariello's orchestra plays Jerry Herman's catchy songs with gusto but not too loud to drown out his winsome lyrics.

This La Cage is not perfect, but it never was. To paraphrase it's hit song, "it is what it is." You get lot of bang for your buck and it's a safe bet that the final curtain will leave you with a smile on your face and a song on your lips.

La Cage Aux Folles
Based on the play La Cage Aux Folles by Jean Poiret
Jerry Herman (songs & lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (libretto)
Directed by Jerry Zaks
Choreography by Jerry Mitchell
Cast: Gary Beach (Albin), Daniel Davis (Georges), Gavin Creel (Jean-Michel), Angela Gaylor (Anne), Ruth Williamson (Jacqueline), Michael Mulheren (Edouard Dindon), Linda Balgord (Mme. Dindon), John Shuman (Francis) and Michael Benjamin Washington (Jacob).
Les Cageelles: T. Oliver Reid, Christopher Freeman, Eric Otte, Nathan Peck, Brad Musgrove, Josh Walden, Joey Dudding, Jermaine R. Rembert, Charlie Sutton, Andy Pellick, Will Taylore, Paul Canaan
St. Tropez Townspeople: Adrian Bailey (Fisherman), Joe Dudding (Hercule), Merwin Foard (M. Renaud) , Patty Goble (Colette), Dale Hensley (Fisherman), John Hillner (Etienne), Leah Horowitz, Dorothy Stanley (Mme. Renaud), Emma Zaks (Paulette).
Set Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Donal Holder

Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald

Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Original Orchestration: Jim Tyler
Additional Orchestrations: Larry Blank
Dance Music Arrangements: David Krane
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Music Director: Patrick Vaccariello
Running time: Approx. 2 1/2, including intermission
Marquis Theater,1535 Broadway, (45th/46th Sts), 212) 307-4100
From 11/10/04; opening 12/09/04.
Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM. Tickets: $25-$100
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on performance
Just two days after winning a Tony for Best Revival, the show announced its closing on 6/26/05 after 30 previews and 229 regular performances.
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Overture
  • We Are What We Are . Les Cagelles
  • A Little More Mascara . Albin and Friends
  • With Anne on My Arm . Jean-Michel and Georges
  • With You on My Arm (Reprise) Georges and Albin
  • The Promenade. Townspeople
  • Song on the Sand. Georges
  • La Cage aux Folles . Albin and Les Cagelles
  • 1 Am What ! Am . Albin
Act Two
  • Entr'acte
  • Song on the Sand (Reprise) Georges and Albin
  • Masculinity. Georges, Albin and Townspeople
  • Look Over There . Georges
  • Cocktail Counterpoint ....Georges, Dindon, Mme. Dindon, Jacob, Jean-Michel and Anne
  • The Best of Times. Albin, Jacqueline and Patrons
  • Look Over There (Reprise) Jean-Michel
  • Grand Finale Full Company
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