You can’t ask much more of a musical comedy (that is if your guide is

the grand old tradition) than for it to be filled with tunes that make

you want to sing along, and enough slightly bawdy comedy to make you

want to tag, if not (as in this case) drag along. The revival of "La

Cage Aux Folles" appears to more than fulfill the above requirements.

In some ways, the new production, exuberantly directed by Jerry Zaks

and excitingly choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, not only affords a

more romantic edge to this Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein collaboration

than we originally saw in 1983, but it waves its gay family-friendly

values proudly in the face of homophobic politicking.

Based on the longest-running stage play ever produced in Paris and

subsequently made into an enormously successful French film (plus a

sequel) and an American film, "The Birdcage," "La Cage" the musical

remains the best of the adaptations. The original production ran

almost four years on Broadway. The collaborators took playwright Jean

Poiret’s original and somewhat superficial romp about two aging

homosexual partners – George and Albin – and supplemented the basic

plot’s farcical improbabilities with a heartfelt respect for the

old-fashioned institution of marriage.

Even the traditional values governing parental respect, domesticity,

and finally, life are addressed without ever losing the basic

underlying fun of it all. How’s that for a theme that uses, and rarely

abuses, the alternative lifestyle as its host? How George and Albin

have managed to raise George’s heterosexual son (the result of an

indiscretion with a chorus girl 21 years ago) from infancy right up to

his impending nuptials while living in the off-centered world of a St.

Tropez transvestite nightclub is only alluded to. It is how George,

the suavely sophisticated owner and master of ceremonies of this

famous club, and Albin, his prominently feminine lover and drag queen

star of the lavish "en travestie" extravaganzas, face the problem of

meeting a prospective daughter-in-law and her ultra-conservative

parents that keeps us alternately laughing and wiping a way a tear or

two.

If nothing else, the fast-paced, often funny production numbers and

the quality of the dancing in this newly-conceived production will win

over the most demanding audiences. As it was in the original

production, the show’s dancing highlight remains the most exuberant

un-parodied can-can you have ever seen, danced by a line of the most

closely-shaved, long-limbed chorus girls (actually boys) ever to

cartwheel and split across a stage.

Choreographer Mitchell has to be commended (I suppose) for selecting a

formidable line of high-kicking drag queens for their

dancing/acrobatic brilliance rather than for their glamorous looks,

some of whom are close to homely. But the best treats come from

Herman’s score, which is filled with lilting melodies and sturdy

sentiments. "We Are What We Are" has almost become the anthem of gay

liberation and "The Best of Times" has become a hand-clapping rouser

for almost any occasion.

Daniel Davis, who appeared most recently in "The Frogs," is an actor

who never fails to bring a little more zip and zing to any role he

undertakes. As George, Davis appears only too eager to show us what a

little mascara will do. Davis also gets to sings the show’s most

memorable ballad, "The Song of the Sand," to Albin under a full moon.

Gary Beach, previously unforgettable as Roger DeBris in Mel Brooks’

"The Producers," plays Albin a.k.a. "Zaza." What more praise can be

said of his performance except that he provides an ultimately poignant

portrayal of a loving mother and wife?

The supporting players seem an altogether joyous collection of types.

Hired as the butler, but staying on to become the maid, Michael

Benjamin Washington makes the most of his opportunities to camp up the

charade as Jacob. Michael Mulheren is funny enough as the

morality-preaching father and politician, but it is nothing to the

laughs he gets in full drag. Ditto his wife, played by Linda Balgord.

Ruth Williamson plants herself squarely in the spotlight as

Jacqueline, a publicity-seeking restaurateur. There is a perpetual

gleam in her eye that personifies the sparkle behind "La Cage."

William Ivey Long’s all-feathered, all-sequined all-gaga costumes and

set designer Scott Pask’s evocation of St. Tropez, including the

hilarious d‚cor change of George and Albin’s apartment from the

phallic to the monastic, is awesome. Beyond the glitz and the gaiety,

"La Cage" remains a love story of unconventional lovers who want to

end up, after all is said and done, holding hands and walking into the

St. Tropez sunset. ***

"La Cage Aux Folles," Marquis Theater, 1535 Broadway. $25 to $100.

212-307-4100.

On Broadway

The key: **** Don’t miss; *** You won’t feel cheated; ** Maybe you

should have stayed home; * Don’t blame us.

All Shook Up, Palace Theater, 1564 Broadway. Previews.

Avenue Q, **** Golden Theater, 252 West 45.

Beauty and the Beast, *** Lunt-Fontanne Theater, Broadway & 46.

Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays, **** Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44.

Extended through May 21.

Brooklyn the Musical, * Plymouth Theater, 236 West 45.

Brooklyn Boy, * Biltmore Theater, 261 West 47. Previews.

Chicago, *** Ambassador Theater, 219 West 49.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hilton Theater, 213 West 42. Opens March 27.

Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance, *** Music Box Theater. Extended

through June 4.

Democracy, ** Brooks Atkinson Theater, 256 West 47.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Imperial Theater, 249 West 45. Previews.

Fiddler on the Roof, ** Minskoff Theater, 200 West 45. Harvey

Fierstein plays Tevye through March 27.

Good Vibrations, Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 West 49.

Hairspray, *** Neil Simon Theater, 250 West 52.

Jackie Mason Freshly Squeezed, Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44.

Previews begin March 8.

Julius Caesar, Belasco Theater, 111 West 44. Previews begin March 8.

La Cage Aux Folles, **** Marquis Theater, Broadway and West 46.

Lennon, Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44.

Little Women, Virginia Theater, 245 West 52.

Mamma Mia!, *** Winter Garden Theater, 1634 Broadway.

Movin’ Out, *** Richard Rodgers Theater, 226 West 46.

Rent, **** Nederlander Theater, 208 West 41.

Spamalot, Shubert Theater, 225 West 44. Previews.

Sweet Charity, Al Hirschfeld Theater, 302 West 45. Previews begin

April 4.

The Glass Menagerie, Barrymore Theater, 243 West 47. Previews begin

February 24.

The Light in the Piazza, Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 West 65.

Previews begin March 17.

The Lion King, **** New Amsterdam Theater, Broadway and 42.

The Phantom of the Opera, *** Majestic Theater, 247 West 44.

The Pillowman, Booth Theater, 222 West 45. Previews begin March 21.

The Producers, *** St. James Theater, 246 West 44.

Twelve Angry Men, ** American Airlines Theater, 227 West 42. Extended.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Longacre Theater, 220 West 48.

Previews begin March 12.

Wicked *** Gershwin Theater, 222 West 51.

Top Of PageOff-Broadway

A Clockwork Orange, 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59.

Altar Boyz, Dodger Stages, 340 West 50.

Belfast Blues, 45 Bleecker Street.

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Theater for the New City, 155 First

Avenue. Opens February 24.

Blue Man Group, *** Astor Place, 434 Lafayette, 212-254-4370.

The Controversy of Valladolid, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette.

Previews.

Cookin’, ** Minetta Lane, 18 Minetta Lane, 212-420-8000.

Counsellor-At-Law, Theater at St. Clements, 423 West 46. 212-868-4444.

Dessa Rose, Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65.

Doubt, New York City Center Stage, 131 West 55.

Falling Off Broadway, Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42.

Fat Pig, *** Lucille Lortel, 121 Christopher Street.

Forbidden Broadway Special Victims Unit, **** Douglas Fairbanks

Theater, 432 West 42.

Ghetto Superstar: The Man that I Am, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette.

Previews.

Hiding Behind Comets, 212 West 29.

Hurlyburly, Theater Row, 410 West 42. Extended through March 19.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, ** Westside Theater, 407 West

43.

Jewtopia, * Westside Theater, 407 West 43rd.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette.

Previews.

Lingoland, York Theater, 619 Lexington. Through March 20.

McReele, Laura Pels Theater, 111 West 46.

Menopause, the Musical, Playhouse 91, 316 East 91, 212-831-2000.

Modern Orthodox, Dodger Stages, 340 West 50.

Moonlight & Magnolias, Manhattan Theater Club, 131 West 55. Opens

March 3.

Musical of Musicals, *** Dodger Stages, 350 West 50. Previews.

Naked Boys Singing, 47th Street Theater, 304 West 47.

Newsical, Upstairs at Studio 54, 254 West 54.

Nine Parts of Desire, MET, 55 Mercer.

On the Mountain, Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42. Through March 13.

Picon Pie, *** Lamb’s Theater, 130 West 44.

Pyretown, Urban Stages, 259 West 30, 212-868-4444.

Romance, Atlantic Theater, 336 West 20.

Sabina, 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59.

Shockheaded Peter, Little Shubert Theater, 422 West 42. Previews.

Shylock, Perry Street Theater, 31 Perry Street.

Slava’s Snowshow, ** Union Square Theater, 100 East 17.

Stomp, *** Orpheum Theater, Second Avenue at 8.

Taxi to Jannah, 59 East 59 Theater.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Second Stage Theater, 307

West 43.

Thom Pain, DR2 Theater, 103 East 15.

Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding ** St. Luke’s Church, 308 West 46.

We’re Still Hot, St. Luke’s Theater, 308 West 46.

Woman Before a Glass, Promenade Theater, Broadway and 76.

Wuthering High, Sol Goldman Theater, 344 East 14. Through February 26.

Ticket Numbers

Broadway and Off-Broadway reservations can be made through Tele-Charge

at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200; Ticket Central, 212-279-4200; and

Ticketmaster, 212-307-4100.

For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music, and

dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing arts

hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS same-day,

half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47) is open daily,

3 to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Wednesday

and Saturday matinees; and 11 a.m. to closing for Sunday matinees.

Cash or Travelers Checks only; no credit cards. Visit TKTS at:

www.tdf.org.

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