I saw the Tony-winning production of La Cage Aux Folles last night. Amazing company, especially the fierce drag Cagelles and the hugely wasted talents of the great Veanne Cox and Christine Andreas* lighting up minor roles. Both principles are vocally underwhelming, but Kelsey Grammer has oodles of charm as George and masterfully propels the plot forward. Personally, I found Douglas Hodge from the tradition of I-‘m-a-huge-classy-British-star-slumming-so-I’ll-mug-shamelessly-and-the-idiotic-Yanks-will-love-me-and-give-me-a-Tony acting. And for as much as there was the controversial Newsweek piece about the appropriateness of the publicly out Sean Hayes playing a heterosexual in Promises, Promises, the vibe is even more iffy in this production with two (presumably) straight men playing a gay couple. Especially with the nanosecond of “ick” that preceded the kiss between the two that ended the show.
I also admit that I detest the central premise of the show, where the son of the two men who has just gotten engaged arranges a “meet the family” event with his future in-laws and asks one father to disappear from the scene and tries to drag back his biological mother. I find that despicable. And I think it is the worst, craven act of Georges not to say to the kid’s request, “Absolutely not ! Albin is your parent too, whether you like it or not. And no marriage can survive a deception like this at the beginning. So just get it all out in the open, and if your bride can’t deal with it, better to know now than later.”
It was also fascinating to see the effective deployment of musical comedy tools wielded by director Terry Johnson. Especially watching The Best of Times number as the action builds, while repeating the same shortish, platitudinous chorus. Because, despite all that, the number has charm, dramatically builds, hypnotizes the audience, and has a necessary dramatic payoff.
*Her Eliza Doolittle in the 1975 production of My Fair Lady was the 5th Broadway show I saw in my youth.