Tuesday, July 01, 2008

partial review of *La Cage aux Folles*

at CdA Summer Theatre through July 12

*La Cage aux Folles,* the Harvey Fierstein-Jerry Herman musical, just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Conceived in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, now its revivals are situated inside our national debate about gay marriage.

(I don’t know about you, but if two gay men moved in next door, my 20-year marriage would simply crumble. Think of the wall sconces, the window treatments, the humiliation. What relationship could withstand that?)

Yet what can a glitzy musical about a drag queen’s right to a committed relationship and a chance at parenting possibly hope to do? Entertain, mainly. The awareness that generosity, commitment and parental love don’t depend on the structure of one’s crotch can always slip in by the side door, unnoticed.

As Albin — the drag queen who wants his son to marry happily, even if his fiancée is the daughter of right-wing prudes — Jerry Christakos doesn’t spend a lot of time going unnoticed. As Zaza, the star of a gender-blending nightclub revue, he’s very much in the spotlight. It’s true that Christakos seems relatively subdued, even by the end of “A Little More Mascara,” his self-pep-talk about fighting depression by once again strapping on the high heels and fake boobs. Early on, the flamboyance of Nathan Lane (who played the equivalent part in the 1996 non-musical movie, The Birdcage) is missing. But that’s just a setup for later on, with Christakos flouncing through nightclub gyrations, ad-libbing wisecracks with front-row audience members, and displaying his step-by-step assembly of a macho swagger (shoulders slumped, legs splayed out) that’s hilarious.

As Albin’s husband, the more straitlaced Georges, Chris Thompson conveys restraint — somebody has to keep this nightclub running on time — as a setup for his own character development. Thompson’s royal, operatic tenor dignifies the ballads describing Georges’ love for Albin (“Song on the Sand”) and Albin’s love for their son Jean-Michel (“Look Over There”). The final curtain call has show “girls” clapping enthusiastically for a leading couple that for once is played by two men. — Thompson and Christakos, resplendent in matching suits. They are what they are, and what they are looks great.

Director Tralen Doler scores a direct hit with his choreography, never more so than in the build-up to the first-act finale: Transvestite can-can dancers form kick lines, spin in triple pirouettes, dangle their feet from upraised knees and then detonate the splits over and over in explosions of risqué glee that skitter across the stage.

Michael McGiveney contributes some versatile set pieces: a seaside Mediterranean café, a ritzy apartment (in versions both outlandish and conventional), the flashing lights of the nightclub.


For the complete, revised review — including comments on several of the actors' performances and more of the choreography — please pick up a copy of *The Pacific Northwest Inlander* on Thursday, July 3.

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