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On Theater: 'La Cage' a drag — and really funny

July 26, 2012|By Tom Titus
  • TILL AUG. 5: The Tony Award-winning musical “La Cage Aux Folles” comes to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Segerstrom Hall, 650 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tickets for the show start at $22.50. For showtimes and more information, visit www.scfta.org.
TILL AUG. 5: The Tony Award-winning musical “La… (Paul Kolnik, Paul…)

The musical "La Cage aux Folles" has quite a pedigree. Born as a French movie in 1973, it was Americanized and set to music on stage a decade later, then morphed into a "straight" movie comedy called "The Bird Cage" in 1996 with uber-comics Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, before its first Broadway revival in 2004 and its second in 2010.

That second revival of the stage production, with Jerry Herman's music and lyrics, is now in residence at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It's a treatise for tolerance and respect for all lifestyle choices, but director Terry Johnson never lets this message cloud the inherent hilarity of the piece.

By now the plot line is quite familiar – Georges, who owns a glitzy night club featuring drag queens, enjoys a two-decade romantic relationship with the club's star performer, Albin, who camps up the stage as Zaza. He also has a 20-year-old son, spawned during a "moment of weakness," whom he and Albin have raised lovingly.

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It's when the son announces his engagement to a lovely young lady – whose father's politics are somewhat to the right of Sarah Palin's – that the feathers hit the fan.

Can Georges nudge Albin out of the spotlight long enough for a parental meeting without stepping on emotional toes? What do you think?

The Segerstrom Center production, headlined by the well-tanned veteran actor George Hamilton, is as flashy and funny as you might expect, and it offers a bonus in the richly robust performance of Christopher Sieber as the thin-skinned diva Albin/Zaza. Sieber, by the way, took over the role of Georges on Broadway last year, then shifted to Albin when Hamilton came aboard for the tour.

Both actors are excellent, with Hamilton's sophisticated smoothness offering sharp contrast to Sieber's fluttery histrionics. Think Cary Grant and Zero Mostel paired romantically and you've got a pretty good idea what to expect.

Subtlety is never much of a consideration here, but showmanship reigns supreme – as when Sieber wrings out the first-act curtain closer, "I Am What I Am," gaining momentum on each verse. It's little wonder that the Forbidden Broadway satirists re-dubbed this number "I Ham What I Ham."

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