With lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, La Cage aux Folles is an enjoyable musical that indeed is a “modern family” musical. First appearing on Broadway in 1983 with Gene Barry in the role of Georges and George Hearn as Albin, the farce focuses on a gay couple (Georges and Albin) whose son is engaged to marry the daughter of ultra-conservative parents. The play also served as the basis for the 1996 motion picture The Birdcage, with Robin Williams as Armand (modeled after Georges) and Nathan Lane as Albert (modeled after Albin). Today (25 September 2013) I saw the production of La Cage aux Folles at Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre, with Charles Shaughnessy (Maxwell Sheffield in The Nanny and Shane Donovan in Days of Our Lives) in the role of Georges and Jonathan Hammond as Albin.
The musical did not disappoint. This is the first play that I have attended that completely engaged the audience, including them as participants in the performance (even if some of them were clearly uncomfortable about it or had no clue what was going on). I will warn readers, however, that my experience undoubtedly was different from anyone else’s who will see the play at another time (and not just because it seems like I was possibly among the youngest people in the audience).
Imagine two and a half hours of non-stop fun (except for the intermission, when the cast and the audience were able to catch their breath). Everyone did a fantastic job; my mother, who has seen musicals on Broadway, told me that it was the best performance she’s ever seen (yes, it even topped when Patsy waved to her at Spamalot). She cannot stop raving about “Les Cagelles” (and was astounded when I told her that most of them were men). I don’t think I’ve ever seen her enjoy a performance as much as she enjoyed this one. Stacey Todd Holt (Francis) provided effective comic relief with his increasing injuries at the hands of Hanna from Hamburg (Leeds Hill), and Nikko Kimzin as Jacob (the maid) strongly reminded me of Hank Azaria as Agador in The Birdcage. Clearly the stars of the show, though, were Charles Shaughnessy and Jonathan Hammond. The two actors really made it believable that they were a couple, as they effectively displayed the emotions involved with first, dealing with their son’s engagement and second, handling the challenge of his future father-in-law, who was leader of the “Tradition, Family, and Morality Party.” Consistently, Georges kept underestimating Jean-Michel’s (Zach Trimmer) age, and Albin struggled with learning that Jean-Michel didn’t want him to meet the in-laws.
Run, don’t walk (or, in my mother’s case, get someone to push you) to La Cage aux Folles at North Shore Music Theatre. Those lucky enough to see the performance will be in for a treat, and be prepared to laugh, clap, and enjoy yourself.