La Cage tells the story of Georges and Albin (played by Daniel Davis and Gary Beach), who are told by their son Jean-Michel (played by Gavin Creel) that he is marrying Anne (Angela Gaylor), the daughter of a morals crusader. What Anne and her parents don't know is that the new in-laws are not only gay but run a notorious drag cabaret — with Albin as the marquee star, Zaza.
Cue the conflict, both between the two families and within the non-traditional family.
A lot has changed in 20 years since the musical based on the film and play of the same name opened in its splashy original production. Gay marriage is a serious issue across the country, gay-themed "Will & Grace" and "Queer as Folk" are TV staples and AIDS — then considered a disease limited to the gay community — has become a pandemic. In 2004, a new conservatism represented by both George W. Bush and the multi-state banning of gay marriage has emerged across the nation.
Librettist Harvey Fierstein told Playbill On-Line he's not so sure a lot has changed culturally since 1983.
"You know, it's kinda scary, but it's not different," Fierstein said. "When the [gay father characters in La Cage] are talking about Anne's father belonging to a political party, they say, 'He's the deputy general of the TFM.' 'What's the TFM?' 'The Tradition, Family and Morality Party.' I think that could have been written this week. The Tradition Family Morality Party? It sounds like I just wrote it. When this loving couple is out in public on the Promenade, and everyone treats them as another couple — they're a successful business couple — Georges starts singing to Albin. When he puts his hands on him, he says, 'Please, Georges, we're in public view.' Even in New York City, two men who might have been together for 40 years walk out on the street touching each other, and people will stare. As far as we think we've come, we haven't. Yet, we have come — because nothing moves backward." Minor script and score changes are evident in the revival. Theatregoers at the previews since Nov. 11 noted a frisky counterpoint melody and lyric in "With Anne on My Arm," and Fierstein has added some lines he had to cut for fear of alienating some people back in 1983.
Of the revisions, Herman admitted, "We tweaked, but they were small. Harvey has added some funny new lines — not that he had to! We had a chance to make it even better. I added some funny lines for Georges in the son's song, 'With Anne on My Arm,' and it's made a difference. Only people who really know the show well will see the difference, but a lot of those places are stronger and funnier, but basically it's the same."
No new songs were added and no cuts were made. "The score is intact!" Herman said.
The production is set in the present-day, not in the 1980s, when the musical first appeared. Composer-lyricist Herman and librettist Fierstein won Tony Awards for their work on the show.
Ruth Williamson, Michael Mulheren, Linda Balgord, John Shuman and Michael Benjamin Washington are among featured players in the new Broadway production of La Cage aux Folles. In the musical comedy about marriage, family and love, Mulheren (The Boy From Oz) and Balgord (Cats, Aspects of Love) play the ultra-conservative parents of Anne, who is engaged to Jean-Michel (Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel, of Thoroughly Modern Millie).
The title nightspot is populated by flashy folk such as local restaurateur Jacqueline (Williamson) and housemaid Jacob (Washington). John Shuman plays Francis, the nightclub's stage manager.
The company also includes Adrian Bailey, Bryan Batt, Paul Canaan, Joey Dudding, Merwin Foard, Christopher Freeman, Patty Goble, Dale Hensley, John Hillner, Leah Horowitz, Clark Johnsen, Paul McGill, Brad Musgrove, Eric Otte, Nathan Peck, Andy Pellick, T. Oliver Reid, Jermaine Rembert, Dorothy Stanley, Charlie Sutton, Will Taylor, Josh Walden and Emma Zaks.
Jerry Mitchell (The Full Monty, Never Gonna Dance, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) choreographs the flashy and heartfelt musical, which includes nightclub numbers with a chorus line in drag. His ambitious dance numbers (like the title sequence) have been earning thunderous applause.
The score includes "Song on the Sand," "Look Over There," "We Are What We Are," "A Little More Mascara," "With You on My Arm," "I Am What I Am," "The Best of Times" and more.
The original production opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on Aug. 21, 1983. It ran for 1,761 performances and won six Tony Awards including Best Musical. (Take a look at the original 1983 playbill in the Playbill Archives feature.)
Performances play Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM. Note that during previews Tuesday performance are at 8 PM.
Tickets range $25-$100, and are available through Ticketmaster.com at (212) 307-4100.
For more information visit www.lacage.com.