When “La Cage Aux Folles” first hit Broadway, the notion of gay marriage was hardly a national concern. Today, as the Tony Award-winning show continues its trek across the country, the divisive issue hangs behind the scenes, although through no direct fault of the show or its cast.
“La Cage” may be nearly 30 years old, but it takes its storytelling cues from “Modern Family,” the ABC sitcom featuring two gay fathers. That series doesn’t wear its politics on its Armani sleeve, and “La Cage” keeps the pontificating mostly off stage.
That leaves a gregarious show filled with well-earned laughs, particularly whenever Christopher Siebert is mincing across The Buell Theatre stage. Siebert is Aldin and his screamingly over the top stage persona Zaza, and the actor hits the right balance between empathy and drag-style Olympics.
George Hamilton is the touring company’s marquee attraction, and there’s a reason people think of him more as a dashing leading man than a song and dance type. He’s not a natural hoofer, and his voice is pleasant but hardly show stopping. That still makes him an appropriate tag team partner with Siebert, the pair making a convincing couple dealing with a family disaster in the making.
Their son Jean-Michel (Michael Lowney) is getting married, and the bride-to-be’s parents are socially conservative to the core. Needless to say the sight of a bedazzled Aldin on Georges' arm could throw young love a serious curve.
It's the kind of slapstick set up that could spell dramatic disaster, but "La Cage" fuses grand comic lines with a surprisingly grounded relationship between the befuddled dads.
The purposefully garish set design includes a convincing seaside vista as well as a massive purple corset, but it's Siebert's range and booming voice that overshadows every ornate theatrical flourish.
The musical numbers are uniformly strong and delightfully choreographed, but the first act's melodrama is partially drowned out by the tuneful excess. The act ends on a glorious note with Siebert's "I Am What I Am," the musical's declaration of sexual independence.
The song starts as a tentative yelp but grows in ferocity with every verse. Later, Siebert and Hamilton join forces for "Song on the Sand," a surprisingly effective duet.
The story builds to a frantic crescendo in Act 2, but “La Cage” can’t spare a nice word or emotion for the future bride's father. It's a poor choice, although Jean-Michel comes off poorly as well until the musical's waning moments.
"La Cage Aux Folles" plays through Sept. 16 at Denver's Buell Theatre before moving to Detroit and Toronto.