Friday, February 17, 2012

The Best of Times is Now

George Hamilton, Christopher Sieber Delight in “La Cage Aux Folles”

By Skip Sheffield

Don’t pine away for yesterday. The best of times is now.
That is the upbeat philosophy of my favorite song in “Las Cage Aux Folles,” playing through Sunday, Feb. 19 at Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
To me, “The Best of Times” ranks right up there with “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” in Broadway song appeal. Of course “La Cage” has radically different subject matter than “Oklahoma!” It is set in a transvestite show club in St. Tropez in the South of France and the two main characters are two men in a long-term relationship.
Headlining this production is handsome matinee idol George Hamilton as Georges, owner of the club called ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ (literally The Birdcage). His partner in business and love is drag queen ZaZa, aka Albin, played by Christopher Sieber.
Albin and Georges are like an old married couple, except that every night Albin puts on makeup “A Little More Mascara,” which he applies onstage), dons a showy dress and goes on to star in the midnight show with “La Cagelles” (chorus boys dressed as girls).
The biggest conflict Albin and Georges have is Albin’s perennial tardiness to the spotlight. That changes when Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Billy Harrigan Tighe) announces he is engaged to be married to love lovely young woman named Anne (Allison Blair McDowell). Jean-Michel, 24, is the spawn of a brief fling Georges had with a woman named Sybil. Georges accepts that his son is heterosexual, but there is a bigger problem. Anne’s father is crusading moralist politician Edouard Dindon (Michael McCormick), who has specifically targeted transvestite show clubs for eradication.
As volatile as the situation could get, Jean-Michel insists that his father host a dinner for Mr. and Mrs. Dindon (Cathy Newman) and her daughter with Georges and the long-absent Sybil. You could safely say things go awry.
“La Cage” is based on a 1973 play by Jean Poiret. The stage play was rewritten by comedian and gay rights activist Harvey Fierstein, who put a distinctly pro-sexual-choice spin on the plot. Hence the proud anthem, “I Am What I Am,” music by Jerry Herman.
Fierstein himself played Albin on Broadway. Like Fierstein, Christopher Sieber is a large man who isn’t very feminine at all. That is what adds to the visual humor of the character. Unlike Fierstein’s gravelly croak, Sieber has a beautiful Broadway-belt voice, which adds a new dimension to every song he sings.
Modest George Hamilton would be the first to admit he is not a polished singer, but his voice is quite serviceable. He sings on-key and even harmonizes.
Hamilton’s strong suit is his manly good looks and his inherent charm; perfect for the role of Georges.
Perhaps because of this good chemistry, wildly athletic chorus boys and scene-stealing “maid” Jacob (Jeigh Madius), the audience reception- wildly cheering at the finale- is the strongest I’ve ever seen at a production of this show. If you are open-minded enough to believe that real love comes in many different guises, this is a show you will love.
Tickets start at $25. Call 800-572-8471.

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