George Hamilton and Christopher Sieber make one very odd couple on stage and off.
Hamilton is the sophisticated leading man and old pro in the best sense of the word, and Sieber is a Broadway vet who excels at outsized characters. They're currently touring with “La Cage Aux Folles,” the celebrated musical which follows a gay couple preparing to meet their son’s new love – and her uber-conservative parents.
The “Love at First Bite” star plays Georges, the subdued nightclub manager whose star attraction is his partner (Sieber) who performs under the name Zaza.
In person, the duo admits to bringing different creative approaches to the show, which plays at Denver’s Buell Theatre through Sept. 16 before moving on to Detroit and Toronto. When Hamilton nails a moment, he’ll stand by it and repeat as necessary. Sieber, a twice Tony Award nominated performer, longs to improvise and crack up his co-star.
Their on-stage chemistry took time, they say, courtesy of more than a few shared meals to cement their bond.
“I have a kind of slick image, it’s been fostered by studios. It doesn’t have a lot to do with me,” Hamilton tells Big Hollywood. “I would imagine anyone working with me would think, 'aw, he’s gonna be a star.’”
Now, at the tail end of a tour which started in 2011, the actors rib each other as if old pals.
Hamilton, his body language the epitome of elegance even if he gently complains of needing a nap, says he’s not sophisticated enough to engage in the sort of mind games some theater people play.
“There’s a pretension that goes with [being in theater] that I don’t even understand,” Hamilton says.
On stage, Hamilton steals a few laughs but mostly sets up his colorful colleague. Sieber’s Aldin is … emotional … to put it gently. But it’s his alter ego, Zaza, that chews the scenery and gulps it down whole. Sieber compares playing the role to those commercials where a wet paper towel held up a growing stack of fruit.
“It breaks if you put too much on,” he says. “Albin is dramatic, not over the top. Zaza can go as far as she wants. It’s always based on truth. You can go over the top, but you really have to mean it …. Otherwise, you’re just being an idiot.”
“La Cage Aux Folles” may be nearly 30 years old, but the show skims cultural hot buttons like gay marriage in ways that hardly feel dated.
“Our show is not political,” Sieber says, adding the tour hasn’t had any negative fallout from audiences. “We don’t preach.”
“In Kansas City, we thought that Rev. Phelps guy would show up … but nothing,” he adds.
Hamilton, who famously played the swashbuckling Zorro and his gay twin in “Zorro, the Gay Blade,” says the show’s storyline is dated in one aspect.
“The whole era that [the couple’s son] is depicting, being embarrassed [over a gay parent], it doesn’t really apply anymore,” Hamilton says.
That doesn’t mean an apolitical musical about an irreverent gay couple doesn’t impact the culture at large. Sieber, who is gay, points to the landmark television episode of “Ellen” in which her character comes out as a lesbian.
“They bit off a little bit more than they could chew, there was too much, too soon … even though it was truly one of the funniest episodes ever," Sieber says. "It’s baby steps. You gotta put it out there in order for people to see it.”