Well, well, Hello Jerry, It’s so nice to have you back where you belong – on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre where your glittering and besequined musical La Cage Aux Folles has been lovingly revived in an intimate setting with an emphasis on pure entertainment and the pure love shared by two men on the French Riviera. Nothing has been lost by scaling back – the glitz and the pizzazz are still there. The tuneful and romantic score leaves us humming on the way home. And the performances are first rate.
Kelsey Grammer as Georges is debonair and charming and a master of comedic timing. He sings and dances beautifully (has he had some tips from David Hyde Pierce perhaps?) and there is a strong and honest heartfelt passion felt between him and his flamboyant lover of twenty years, Albin/Zaza, here portrayed by the British star Douglas Hodge who came over with the production originally produced by the Menier Chocolate Factory whose most original take on the part is a marvel. What a sensational pair they make!
Their butler Jacob, who prefers being a maid wearing pasties with a desire to join the chorus of Cagelles is amusingly portrayed by the zany Robin De Jesus. Christine Andreas as Jacqueline the over zealous publicity seeker for café – Chez Jacqueline is in fine voice in the rousing “The Best of Times” and looks stunning in the outfits provided by designer Matthew Wright who has created some of the best costumes this season.
Director, Terry Johnson pulls every trick out of his endless bag of musical comedy; English Music Hall inspired devices – from over sized beach balls to roller skates to slapstick comedy to bring La Cage to seedy life. Seedy is a compliment. If you have ever seen a drag show in France you know that they put it all together on a small budget with lots of ingenuity and that the “girls” sometimes are a rowdy and not very disciplined lot.
The Cagelles – all six of them have been brilliantly cast. They perform their numbers from zee cabaret club where Zaza stars in a manner that is both professional and slip shod. It takes great dancers to appear to be bored while performing while executing the physical, exciting and witty choreography of Lynne Page.
And there is a story, well written by Harvey Fierstein, (based on a play by Jean Poiret) that is strong on jokes and leaning towards the sentimental which compliments Jerry Herman’s romantic and optimistic view of life in general.
Georges and Albin have brought up Jean-Michel (A.J. Shively with a fine and sweet tenor voice) – the son sired by Georges one drunken night with a beautiful but since then absentee biological mother. Jean-Michel announces that he is in love and wants to marry Anne (a perfect Elena Shaddow) – the daughter of very moral and strict parents (Fred Applegate and Veanne Cox – another delightful pairing!) who are on their way to meet his parents. Oil and water never did mix and of course this leads to mayhem to say the least. Jean Michel wants his real mother, not Albin, to be there.
In this day and age when so many gays have burst forth from the proverbial closet and are marrying and adopting and having children of their own La Cage Aux Folles takes on a deeper and more humane meaning than just a frilly song and dance show. Douglas Hodge brings out all the warmth and heart that Jerry Herman wears so openly and proudly on his sleeve. His first act finale “I Am What I Am” soars quietly as he reaches his furious climax – part Garland, part Streisand, but all Hodge.
La Cage Aux Folles is simply fantastic. Go. Be entertained, be surprised and be young and in love with this sparkling powerhouse of a musical.