La Cage Aux Folles in Boston: Sieber A Tour de Force

Funny thing about the return of La Cage Aux Folles to Boston .. it’s sort of billed as a vehicle for George Hamilton, when it’s truly driven by the incredible Christopher Sieber.  I know, I know Hamilton’s the name .. the tan, the celebrity, the STAR.  He’s also the least interesting thing in the show.  He’s far from a disaster, but the level of talent around him is so much greater, that he winds up fading into the background.  Hamilton’s the tasteful curtains in an otherwise eye-popping room and you don’t go to La Cage for the curtains.

What you do go to La Cage for is to see a performance like Sieber’s.  His turn as Albin, the star attraction at a Saint-Tropez drag club, is smart, sublime and endearing.  His musical gifts are nothing less than astounding, when he sings “I Am What I Am” at the end of Act One, he holds center stage, and the audience, completely in his hands.  Blown away are all the gender-bending jokes, and over-the-top costumes.  It’s just a man, alone in the spotlight, determined to live life on his own terms.

La Cage actually took wing in Boston back in 1983.  Before taking Broadway by storm it worked out the kinks at the Colonial Theatre.  The current National Tour is based at the more intimate Shubert Theatre and it’s really a terrific fit.  Director Terry Johnson wants a club-like feel, and rather than wowing you with numbers, he trusts a tight-knit corps of actors to bring the story to life.  Some brilliant set pieces by Tim Shortall .. including a giant corset .. make everything, well, pop!  The costumes by Matthew Wright are also something to behold.

Which brings us to “Les Cagelles” .. the drag queens that make La Cage the spectacle it is.  This corps of performers sing, dance, leap, dive, spin and more .. and they do it all in outrageously high heels.  Not something you see every day.  Not something that’s to everyone’s taste.  Hard to describe unless your watching it yourself .. which is why you should experience live theatre in the first place.  Choreographer Lynne Page puts these guys through their paces, and shows no mercy!

Yes, there is a story to go with all the feathers and fishnets.  Georges, George Hamilton, is the owner of La Cage aux Folles.  He’s also, Albin’s partner and the father of a 24-year-old son who’s about to get married.  Jean-Michel, but of course, has fallen in love with Anne, the daughter of an uptight French politician.  Anne’s old man wants to meet Jean-Michel’s family, and of course much hilarity follows.  It could be an overly preachy plot-line, but everything’s handled with a light touch.  The message of being true to yourself, however, is never just tossed off.

I want to get back to Christopher Sieber one more time before wrapping this up.  He knows this show inside and out having played both Georges and Albin in different productions.  Only two of the songs in Jerry Herman’s score really matter, “I Am What I Am” and “The Best of Times” and Sieber is key to both.  He gets beyond the old school Broadway shtict that Herman’s all about (gimme a C, a bouncy C) and makes the songs touching and universal.  He also generously reaches out to bring Hamilton back into the show and out of his somewhat clueless fog.  Sieber knows what it’s like to play Georges, the not-so-straight straight man, and he knows how essential that character is to the show’s humanity.  He simply won’t let Hamilton fail, and that is the mark of a true pro.

Hamilton may have the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but it’s Sieber who shines brightest.  See this show to see his performance.
La Cage plays through December 18th at the Shubert Theatre in Boston, tickets available online and at the box office.


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