Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reviews of La Cage Aux Folles at The Broward Cener

The national tour of La Cage Aux Folles is currently at the Broward Center for the Performaing Arts until June 24.  Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by HarveyFierstein.  Directed by Terry Johnson.  Starring: George Hamilton, Christopher Sieber, Dale Hensley, Michael Lowney, Jeigh Madjus, Gay Marshall, Allison Blair McDowell, and Todd Lattimore.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for the The Miami Herald:
That story centers on a family crisis for Saint-Tropez nightclub impresario Georges (George Hamilton) and his longtime partner and star Albin, aka Zaza (Christopher Sieber). The son they raised together, Jean-Michel (Michael Lowney), has come home to introduce his fiancée Anne (Allison Blair McDowell) and her parents to his folks. But he’s embarrassed by the flamboyant Albin, the only “mother” he’s ever known, because Anne’s judgmental Papa is a pro-family, anti-gay politician who has vowed to wipe out clubs like La Cage.

Sharper than a serpent’s tooth, Jean-Michel asks Georges to ask Albin to vanish for a day. That emotionally devastating request sets up the musical’s most powerful number, the prideful anthem that closes the first act. And to hear Sieber — dressed in glamorous drag as Zaza but singing as the deeply wounded, fierce Albin — perform I Am What I Am is genuinely transcendent theater.

Georges is supposed to be different from Albin, a bit more controlled, a lot less dramatic. But Hamilton and Sieber are a mismatch. The movie and TV veteran is a strikingly handsome, smiling, charming presence who doesn’t look 30 years older than Sieber, though he is. His singing voice and dance moves are passable, but the real trouble lies in his too-small, too-subtle acting. Performing in a musical, particularly one as bold and comedically bawdy as La Cage aux Folles, demands bigger, more powerful choices than the ones Hamilton makes.

Quick-thinking cast member Todd Lattimore, done up like a ‘40s Fort Lauderdale pinup girl, does a hilarious pre-show warmup that gets the audience in a happy, receptive mood before the curtain goes up.

Mary Damiano reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage
Based on a 1973 French play that was re-made as a successful French film, La Cage aux Folles came to Broadway in 1983, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein.  It was made into the American film The Birdcage in 1996, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.

This version of La Cage aux Folles is scaled back, and feels smaller than previous renditions.  The musicians have been raised from the orchestra pit to theater boxes above the stage, a design that brings the audience further into the intimate world of a nightclub. Some of the production numbers by Les Cagelles have a darker edge to them, more Cabaret than classic, colorful La Cage. But it works, largely due to the exceptional performance by Sieber.

Sieber, who was nominated for Tony Awards for playing Lord Farquaad in Shrek: The Musical and Sir Dennis Galahad in Monty Python’s Spamalot, is the heart and soul of the show.  What’s most impressive is that Sieber excels at turning this old chestnut of a role into his own special creation through little nuances and laugh-out-loud bits.  His flamboyance hits new heights on the drama queen scale, but he also nails the more poignant moments of the show.

While Sieber is the workhorse of this production, Hamilton brings the star power. Playing a charming nightclub host and master of ceremony is no real stretch for Hamilton, whose affable manner is as ingrained as his electric white smile and bronze perma-tan. And while his acting style is better suited to the screen than the stage, his low-key performance allows his co-star to shine all the more. 


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