|La Cage aux Folles|
Original Broadway windowcard
|Basis||La Cage aux Folles |
by Jean Poiret
|Productions||1983 Boston (tryout)|
1984 US Tour
1984 US Tour
1986 West End
1987 US Tour
1993 US Tour
2008 West End
2011 US Tour
2017 UK Tour
|Awards||1984 Tony Award for Best Musical|
1984 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
1984 Tony Award for Best Original Score
2004 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical
2009 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival
2010 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical
Based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, it tells the story of a gay couple, Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when Georges's son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée's ultra-conservative parents to meet them. La cage aux folles literally means "the cage of mad women". However, folles is also a slang term for effeminate homosexuals (queens).
Opening on Broadway in 1983, La Cage broke barriers for gay representation by becoming one of the first hit Broadway musicals centered on a homosexual relationship. The show's Act One finale, "I Am What I Am", received praise as a "gay anthem," and has been widely recorded.
The success of the musical spawned a West End production and several international runs. The 2004 Broadway revival won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and the 2008 London revival garnered the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. The 2010 Broadway revival was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. La Cage aux Folles is the first musical which has won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice and it has won a Best Musical Tony Award (Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical) for each of its Broadway productions. The show has garnered five nominations for Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical from its three Broadway productions, twice for portrayers of Georges and three times for portrayers of Albin, winning the award twice (both for actors playing Albin).
Allan Carr, who had produced the successful film adaptation of Grease (1978), was eager to work in theatre and thought a musical version of the hit 1978 film La Cage aux Folles would be an ideal vehicle for his Broadway debut. However, he was unable to secure the rights to the film and was forced to settle for the rights to the original play only. Carr hired Jay Presson Allen to write the book and Maury Yeston to compose the score for The Queen of Basin Street, an Americanized version set in New Orleans. With Mike Nichols set to direct and Tommy Tune on board as choreographer, Carr searched for executive producers and found them in Fritz Holt and Barry Brown, who immediately fired the entire creative team that Carr had assembled. All of them eventually filed lawsuits, but Yeston alone won and later collected a small royalty from La Cage.
Holt and Brown had produced the 1974 revival of Gypsy directed by Arthur Laurents, and they approached him with an offer to direct their new venture. Laurents was not a fan of drag or camp entertainment and thought Holt and Brown never would find enough investors to finance a gay-themed project at a time when, during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, homophobia was more intense than ever. He agreed only because Holt and Brown were close friends and he wanted them to remain on Carr's payroll as long as possible, but his interest grew when he learned Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman had committed to the project.
According to Laurents, when he met with Fierstein and Herman for the first time, they had restored both the title and locale of the original play but had neither a script nor even an outline for the plot. All they had was the Herman song "I Am What I Am", and Laurents immediately envisioned it as an emotional outburst sung at the close of the first act. Laurents further claims that when he explained his concept to Fierstein and Herman, he inspired the direction they took in writing the musical. Herman tells a very different story in an interview included in the original cast CD. He claims that they were well into the collaboration when Fierstein arrived one day with an emotional fiery scene he had written for the end of Act I that included the words "I am what I am". Delighted, Herman asked to use the five words, boasting he would have a song by morning, which he did. With gay-activist Fierstein and the political Laurents on board, the show could have "become a polemic diatribe on gay rights." However, Herman was a moderating influence. Having suffered a series of disappointments with darker-themed shows since 1969, he was eager to score a hit with a mainstream, emotional, optimistic song-and-dance entertainment that middle-class audiences would enjoy. The team opted to create "a charming, colorful, great-looking musical comedy - an old-fashioned piece of entertainment," as Herman recalled in his memoir Showtune. By "delivering their sentiments in a sweetly entertaining manner", the team was able to convey their gay-themed message with more impact than they could have with a more aggressive approach.
Fierstein, Herman and Laurents met daily in Herman's Manhattan townhouse to work on the musical. Because they were limited to using only the Poiret play as a source, they were unable to include the character of Jean-Michel's birth mother, who had been created for the film. They focused the plot on the fact that the relationship of Georges and Albin seems so natural that the boy is able to accept a man as his "mother". The three men agreed that Albin needed to be as glamorous an entertainer as possible, and Theoni V. Aldredge was hired as costume designer to achieve their goal.
The producers agreed to a Boston tryout, and just before the second preview (the first was cancelled due to problems with the mechanized set), Herman had a panic attack prompted by his fear that the city probably was too conservative to embrace a gay-themed musical, albeit one designed for a mainstream audience. The Boston crowds gave the show an enthusiastic reception. Fierstein, Herman and Laurents were also concerned that this was essentially a love story in which the lovers barely touched each other. Fierstein suggested they kiss on the cheeks at the end, and Laurents, citing the common custom of French men kissing each other on both cheeks, agreed.
George Hearn as Albin had the showier role and many of the big musical numbers. His character was fully drawn, and behind the drag performer, the audience could see "a person driven to take a stand for himself - a notion that all people could relate to." In contrast, during rehearsals, everyone had supported firing Gene Barry, who was considered adequate but never outstanding as Georges, but finding a replacement proved to be difficult. Finally, just before opening night, Laurents directed him always to look into Hearn's eyes, whenever the two men were on stage, so the audience would sense the depth of the couple's feelings for each other. The director also had Georges introduce the various club acts with more of a flourish, "like an aria that will land like a musical number." Both of these last-minute stage directions enabled Barry to get a better grasp of his character. Barry went on to get a Tony nomination for Best Actor in a musical for his efforts, while co-star Hearn took home the trophy.
According to theatre historian John Kenrick, La Cage aux Folles helped make the 1983 Broadway season an especially strong one. He noted that following La Cage and Big River in 1985, for "the first time since Oklahoma, a full decade would go by before a new American musical would pass the 1,000-performance mark."
Georges, the master of ceremonies, welcomes the audience to his St. Tropez drag nightclub, "La Cage aux Folles". The chorus line known as Les Cagelles appear and introduce themselves to the audience ("We Are What We Are"). Georges and his "wife", Albin, have lived happily together for many years in an apartment above La Cage with their "maid" Jacob. Albin is a drag queen and the star performer of La Cage aux Folles under the alias of "Zaza".
As Albin prepares to perform ("[A Little More] Mascara"), Georges's 24-year-old son Jean-Michel (the offspring of a confused, youthful liaison with a woman named Sybil) arrives home with the news that he is engaged to Anne Dindon. Georges is reluctant to approve of Jean-Michel's engagement, but Jean-Michel assures his father that he is in love with Anne ("With Anne on My Arm"). Unfortunately, her father is head of the "Tradition, Family and Morality Party", whose stated goal is to close the local drag clubs. Anne's parents want to meet their daughter's future in-laws. Jean-Michel has lied to his fiancée, describing Georges as a retired diplomat. Jean-Michel pleads with Georges to tell Albin to absent himself (and his flamboyant behaviors) for the visit - and for Georges to redecorate the apartment in a more subdued fashion. Jean-Michel also asks Georges to invite Sybil, who has barely seen him since his birth, to dinner in Albin's stead. Albin returns from the show to greet his son when Georges suggests that they take a walk ("With You on My Arm").
Georges takes Albin to the Promenade Café, owned by Monsieur and Madame Renaud, where he attempts to soften Albin's emotions before telling him of Jean-Michel's request ("Song on the Sand"). Before Georges can break the news to him, Albin suggests that they hurry back to La Cage to make it in time for the next show. They arrive in time and Albin takes the stage once more as Zaza ("La Cage aux Folles"). While Albin is performing, Georges and Jean-Michel quickly redecorate the house. While Albin is changing for his next number, he notices the two carrying his gowns and demands to know what is going on. Georges finally tells Albin of Jean-Michel's plan and expects Albin to explode with fury, but he remains silent. Albin then re-joins Les Cagelles onstage, tells them to leave, and begins to sing alone in defiance of Jean-Michel, stating that he is proud of who he is and refuses to change for anyone ("I Am What I Am"). He throws his wig at Georges and departs in a huff.
The next morning, Georges finds Albin at the Promenade Café after his abrupt departure and apologizes ("Song on the Sand [Reprise]"). He then suggests to Albin that he dress up for dinner as macho "Uncle Al". Albin is still upset, but reluctantly agrees to act like a heterosexual for Jean-Michel. With the help of Monsieur and Madame Renaud, Georges successfully teaches Albin to abandon his flamboyancy ("Masculinity"). Back at the chastely redesigned apartment, Georges shows "Uncle Al" to Jean-Michel. Jean-Michel doesn't like the idea and expresses his dislike for Albin's lifestyle. Georges angrily reminds Jean-Michel of how good of a "mother" Albin has been to him ("Look Over There"). They then receive a telegram that Jean-Michel's mother Sybil is not coming and Anne's parents arrive ("Dishes [Cocktail Counterpoint]"). Hoping to save the day, Albin appears as Jean-Michel's buxom, forty-year-old mother, in pearls and sensible shoes. The nervous Jacob burns the dinner, so a trip to a local restaurant, "Chez Jacqueline", belonging to an old friend of Albin and Georges, is quickly arranged. No one has told Jacqueline of the situation, and she asks Albin (as Zaza) for a song, to which he hesitantly agrees ("The Best of Times"). Everyone in the restaurant begins to take part in the song, causing Albin to yield to the frenzy of performance and tear off his wig at the song's climax, revealing his true identity.
Back at the apartment, the Dindons plead with their daughter to abandon her fiancé, for they are appalled by his homosexual parents, but she is in love with Jean-Michel and refuses to leave him. Jean-Michel, deeply ashamed of the way he has treated Albin, asks his forgiveness ("Look Over There [Reprise]"), which is lovingly granted. The Dindons prepare to depart, but their way is blocked by Jacqueline, who has arrived with the press, ready to photograph the notorious anti-homosexual activists with Zaza. Georges and Albin have a proposal: If Anne and Jean-Michel may marry, Georges will help the Dindons escape through La Cage downstairs. Georges bids the audience farewell while Les Cagelles prepare the Dindons for the grand finale ("La Cage aux Folles [Reprise]"). Georges then introduces the Dindons, dressed in drag as members of the nightclub's revue, and they escape the paparazzi with Jean-Michel and Anne behind them. With everyone gone, Albin enters and he and Georges briefly sing of their love for each other before sharing a kiss ("Finale [With You On My Arm/La Cage aux Folles/Song on the Sand/The Best Of Times]").
La Cage aux Folles opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on August 21, 1983. It was directed by Arthur Laurents and choreographed by Scott Salmon, with set design by David Mitchell, costume design by Theoni V. Aldredge, and lighting design by Jules Fisher. The original Broadway cast included Gene Barry as Georges and George Hearn as Albin, with John Weiner as Jean-Michel, Jay Garner as Edouard Dindon, Merle Louise as Mme. Dindon, Elizabeth Parrish as Jacqueline, Leslie Stevens as Anne, and William Thomas Jr. as Jacob. Among the replacement performers who appeared in La Cage aux Folles during its original Broadway run were Walter Charles, Keene Curtis, Van Johnson, Peter Marshall, Keith Michell, Jamie Ross and Lee Roy Reams. The original production received nine Tony Award nominations, winning a total of six including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical. The show beat several strong competitors in many categories, including Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. It also won three Drama Desk Awards. The production ran for four years and 1,761 performances, closing on November 15, 1987.
The show had its West End premiere at the London Palladium on May 7, 1986 with the same creative team as the Broadway production. Hearn transferred with the production, which was made possible through an agreement with the American and British actors' unions, allowing him to come over in exchange for Robert Lindsay appearing in Me and My Girl on Broadway. The production also starred Denis Quilley as Georges,Jonathon Morris as Jean-Michel, Brian Glover as Edouard Dindon, Julia Sutton as Mme. Dindon, Phyllida Law as Jacqueline, Wendy Roe as Anne and Donald Waugh as Jacob. The show closed in London after 301 performances. Its short run and financial failure were partly blamed on the AIDS crisis, and producers were uncomfortable about portraying gay lives onstage quite so openly in mainstream musicals for some time afterwards.
The first Broadway revival opened at the Marquis Theatre, beginning previews on November 11, 2004, with an official opening on December 9, 2004. The production team included Jerry Zaks as director, Jerry Mitchell as choreographer, Scott Pask, Donald Holder and William Ivey Long as designers. The cast included Gary Beach as Albin, Daniel Davis as Georges, Gavin Creel as Jean-Michel, Michael Mulheren as Edouard Dindon, Linda Balgord as Mme. Dindon, Ruth Williamson as Jacqueline, Angela Gaylor as Anne, and Michael Benjamin Washington as Jacob.Robert Goulet replaced Davis as Georges on April 15, 2005 and played the role until the production closed. Reviews for the production were mixed, with The New York Times stating that it "often gives the impression of merely going through the motions, amiably but robotically, of its gag-laden, sentimental plot", yet praised Les Cagelles, who "bring acrobatic oomph and angularity to centerpieces that include an aviary of exotic, back-flipping birds and a vigorous Montmartre-style can-can. As long as the Cagelles are doing their thing, your attention stays thoroughly engaged". The revival won a number of Tony and Drama Desk awards. The production closed on June 26, 2005. Ticket sales for the show had not increased after winning the Tony Award, and the show had been consistently selling at less than 60% capacity in the months before closing.
A scaled-down London revival, starring Philip Quast and Douglas Hodge opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory on January 8, 2008, and played there until March 8, 2008. The cast also included Neil McDermott, Iain Mitchell and Una Stubbs, with direction by Terry Johnson and choreography by Lynne Page. The production had originally been scheduled to open in December 2007, but it was delayed twice due to illness within the cast. The show opened to mostly positive press with particular praise for Hodge's performance as Albin.
The Menier Chocolate Factory production transferred to the West End on October 20, 2008 at the Playhouse Theatre co-produced with Sonia Friedman Productions, Robert G. Bartner, David Ian Productions, The Ambassador Theatre Group, Matthew Mitchell and Jamie Hendry Productions. It was initially advertised as a "Strictly Limited 12 Week Season", although this became open-ended due to its success. Hodge reprised his role as Albin, joined by Denis Lawson as Georges. The cast also included Iain Mitchell as Edouard Dindon/M. Renaud, Paula Wilcox as Mme. Ranaud/Mme. Dindon and Tracie Bennett as Jacqueline. The production gathered rave reviews, with high praise again for Hodge and Les Cagelles. Whatsonstage.com commented: "A great Broadway show has been reborn as a classic musical comedy with real punch and pizzazz." Michael Billington of The Guardian reported that the show had improved with its transfer to the West End from the Menier Chocolate Factory. The production won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival, and Hodge won for Best Actor, out of a total of seven nominations. The roles of Albin and Georges have been re-cast in London every three months with well-known actors to keep the production fresh and public interest high. Television personality Graham Norton took over the role of Albin on January 19, 2009, alongside Steven Pacey as Georges. They were succeeded on May 4, 2009, by theatre veterans Roger Allam as Albin and Philip Quast reprising his role of Georges from the Menier Chocolate Factory. From September 12, 2009, until November 28, 2009, John Barrowman and Simon Burke played the roles of Albin and Georges respectively.Douglas Hodge as Albin and Denis Lawson as Georges returned to the production from 30 November 2009, until the production closed on January 2, 2010.
A transfer of the 2008 London revival to Broadway began previews at the Longacre Theatre on April 6, 2010, and officially opened on April 18, 2010. Johnson and Page directed and choreographed. Douglas Hodge reprised the role of Albin and Kelsey Grammer starred as Georges. The set design was by Tim Shortall, costumes by Matthew Wright, lighting by Nick Richings, and scaled down eight-player orchestrations by Jason Carr. The production received positive reviews, many praising the scaled-down nature of the production and the performances of newcomers Douglas Hodge and Kelsey Grammer as Albin and Georges. The cast also featured A.J Shively in his Broadway debut as Jean-Michel, Robin de Jesús as Jacob, Fred Applegate as Edouard Dindon/M. Renaud, Veanne Cox as Mme. Dindon/Mme. Renaud, Christine Andreas as Jacqueline and Elena Shaddow as Anne. The Cagelles included Nick Adams, Logan Keslar, Sean Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Cunningham, Terry Lavell and Yurel Echezarreta. The production received 11 Tony Award nominations and won Best Musical Revival, Best Actor in a Musical (Douglas Hodge) and Best Direction of a Musical. A cast recording of the revival was made by PS Classics and was released on September 28, 2010. The production closed on May 1, 2011, after 433 performances and 15 previews.
A national tour modeled after the 2010 Broadway revival began in September 2011 starting in Des Moines, Iowa. At first, Mr. Fierstein was asked to play the role of Georges and Mr. Sieber was asked to play the role of Albin, each taking the role the other had played on Broadway. Due to a full schedule, being set to write the book of the Disney musical Newsies and the musical Kinky Boots, Mr. Fierstein had to decline this offer. This tour starred George Hamilton in the role of Georges and Christopher Sieber as Albin. Sieber, who was very critically praised for his portrayal of Albin, had previously played the role of 'Georges' on Broadway opposite Fierstein. This was Sieber's national tour debut.
A UK tour produced by Bill Kenwright began on 5 January 2017 at the New Theatre, Oxford. The cast included John Partridge as Albin, Adrian Zmed as Georges and Marti Webb as Jacqueline. Martin Connor directed the production, with choreography by Bill Deamer, design by Gary McCann and musical direction by Mark Crossland. This production was the first to tour the UK.
Other foreign language productions have played in Copenhagen, Oslo (twice), Bergen, Vienna, Italy, Turku, Helsinki (twice), Jyväskylä, Seinäjoki, Buenos Aires, Lima, Stockholm, Bogotá, Tallinn, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo.
Note: Original Broadway production
There are currently three cast recordings available for the show: the Original Broadway cast, the Original Australian cast and the 2010 Broadway revival cast. No recording was made for the 2004 revival.
Albin's Act I finale number, "I Am What I Am", was recorded by Gloria Gaynor and proved to be one of her biggest hits. It was also recorded by other artists, including Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Pia Zadora, and John Barrowman. It also became a rallying cry of the Gay Pride movement.
|1984||Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||Harvey Fierstein||Won|
|Best Original Score||Jerry Herman||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||George Hearn||Won|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Arthur Laurents||Won|
|Best Choreography||Scott Salmon||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Theoni V. Aldredge||Won|
|Best Lighting Design||Jules Fisher||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Book of a Musical||Harvey Fierstein||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||George Hearn||Won|
|Outstanding Music||Jerry Herman||Won|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||Jim Tyler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Theoni V. Aldredge||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Jules Fisher||Nominated|
|2005||Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Gary Beach||Nominated|
|Best Choreography||Jerry Mitchell||Won|
|Best Costume Design||William Ivey Long||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Choreography||Jerry Mitchell||Won|
|Outstanding Costume Design||William Ivey Long||Nominated|
|2009||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Musical Revival||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Douglas Hodge||Won|
|Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Jason Pennycooke||Nominated|
|Best Director of a Musical||Terry Johnson||Nominated|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Lynne Page||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Matthew Wright||Nominated|
|2010||Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Kelsey Grammer||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Robin de Jesús||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Terry Johnson||Won|
|Best Choreography||Lynne Page||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Jason Carr||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||Tim Shortall||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Matthew Wright||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Nick Richings||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design||Jonathan Deans||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Douglas Hodge||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Robin de Jesús||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Terry Johnson||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography||Lynne Page||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Matthew Wright||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Design||Jonathan Deans||Nominated|