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Beneath the “big, glitzy musical” known as La Cage aux Folles beats a “tender heart,” said Steven Suskin in Variety. In the new Broadway production of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s 1983 creation, Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge shine as longtime gay couple Georges and Albin. Georges (Grammer) owns the titular cabaret on the French Riviera; Albin (Hodge) is his star drag performer. When Georges’ biological son, Jean-Michel (A.J. Shively), comes for a visit with his fiancée and her right-wing family, the ensuing complications are “heartwarming, funny, and terrific.” Previous versions of La Cage have glossed over Georges and Albin’s romantic relationship, but director Terry Johnson refreshingly presents them as a couple who are “earnestly and endearingly in love.”
Aptly capturing their characters’ very different personalities, Grammer and Hodge act as the “yin and yang” that keep the production on track, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. The character of Albin “has always been a natural-born showstopper,” but Hodge takes it to a new level. In the numbers that feature Albin’s drag queen alter ego, Zaza, Hodge draws on a host of influences, from Marilyn Monroe to Edith Piaf. He also captures, as few other performers have, Albin’s “pain and anger” when he’s treated as too outré even for his own unconventional family. Grammer’s “cool, modest performance” keeps a lid on Hodge’s bluster, and the two actors settle into a give-and-take that’s both riotous and endearing.
The tone of this La Cage reveals just how far society has come in terms of embracing gay relationships, said Adam Feldman in Time Out New York. During the Reagan era, the musical’s flamboyant aspects functioned in part as comic relief, and Georges and Albin seemed more like close friends than a real couple. The 2010 La Cage treats them as, in essence, married—reflecting a culture in which gay marriage is, at least for some, part of everyday life. By treating this work as more than just a period piece, Johnson has “made a case for La Cage as a classic of American musical comedy.”
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