WHAT’S UP BROADWAY FANS?! Broadway’s biggest night of the year is just 26 DAYS AWAY… we are talking about The 73rd Annual Tony Awards. You are getting entertained each morning with some of your favorite musical numbers from previous telecasts on our TOP 40 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. Are you ready for another powerhouse performance?
At # 26 on our countdown, we take you to the southernmost part of France. There, we get to know the romance between the manager of a burlesque show featuring drag queens and the star drag queen. Yup, this is the first major drag musical ever produced on a Broadway stage…. La CAGE AUX Folles. Featuring a score by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the show is based on Jena Poriet’s 1973 play of the same name which was later put on the big screen in 1978 as a French film and then reinterpreted in America in the 1996 film THE BIRDCAGE.
From the 1984 telecast, Tony Award winner George Hearn as “Albin” (a.k.a in Drag attire as “Zaza”) and the cast of the original production perform a medley of the show’s opening number WE ARE WHAT WE ARE and then later reprised as a solo known as the musical’s signature song I AM WHAT I AM.
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES was first conceived by Hollywood Producer Allan Carr (following the success of producing the film version of Grease). He was eager to producing a musical comedy of the 1978 film adaptation (of what the original 1973 play was based off of) as his official Broadway producer debut, However, he struggled to get the rights to the film and was forced to settle for the rights to the original play only. The original version for the musical was initially called THE QUEEN OF BASIN STREET featuring a book by Jay Presson Allen and a score by Maury Yeston. In addition, the original storyline was originally set in New Orleans. Under the direction of Mike Nichols and choreography by Tommy Tune, Carr began tracking down numerous Broadway producers to help him out. There, he met Fritz Holt and Barry Brown (following the success of the 1974 revival of Gypsy with Angela Lansbury) decided to go in a new direction and fire the original creative team and went in a completely new direction. All who was fired filled lawsuits with Maury Yeston winning and late collected a small royalty from the show. Joining the new lineup included direction by Arthur Laurents, a new book by Harvey Fierstein and a new score Jerry Herman. At first, Laurents was not a fan of drag or camp entertainment. He was also concerned about Holt and Brown not being able to find enough investors to finance a gay-themed project at a time when. At the time of this was happening, it was the early years of the AIDS epidemic, homophobia was more intense than ever. Herman met up with Fierstein and Laurents daily in Herman's Manhattan townhouse to work on the musical. However being only limited to using the Poiret play as a source, they were unable to include the character of Jean-Michel's birth mother, who had been created for the film. They focused the plot on the fact that the relationship of the center roles of “Georges” and “Albin” seems so natural that the boy is able to accept a man as his "mother"
The show had its official pre-Broadway tryout in 1983 in Boston, Massachusetts. However there, the show was experiencing numerous problems including the first preview being cancelled due to technical malfunctions with the mechanized set. The very next day, Jerry Herman had a panic atttack featuring that the city was too conservative to embrace a gay-themed musical, albeit one designed for a mainstream audience. In addition, Herman, Harvey Fierstein, and Arthur Laurents were also concerned that this was essentially a love story in which the lovers barely touched each other. Fierstein suggested they kiss on the cheeks at the end, and Laurents, citing the common custom of French men kissing each other on both cheeks, agreed. The Boston crowds gave the show an enthusiastic and thunderous standing ovation.
From there, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES finally arrived on Broadway a few months later playing the Palace Theatre for a complete total of 1,776 performances. Under the direction of Arthur Laurents and choreographed by Scott Salmon, the cast featured…
John Weiner (later Peter Reardon) as “Jean-Michel”,
Jay Garner as “Edouard Dindon”,]
Merle Louise (later Darcy Pulliam) as “Mme. Dindon”,
Elizabeth Parrish as “Jacqueline”,
Leslie Stevens (later Juliette Kurth and Jennifer Smith) as “Anne”,
Walter Charles (later Jack Davison) as “M. Renaud”,
and William Thomas, Jr. (later David Jackson and Darrell Carey) as “Jacob”.
The original production was nominated for 9 Tony Awards in 1984. It took home 6 including Best Musical. Following the success, the show went on to play on tour across America and in London’s West End, It would later be revived on the Broadway stage twice.
The first Broadway revival of La Cage Broadway arrived in 2004. It played the Marquis Theatre for a complete total of 260 performances. Under the direction of Jerry Zaks and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, the cast featured….
Daniel Davis (later ROBERT GOULET) as “Georges”,
The late Tony winning Gary Beach as “Albin”,
Tony winner Gavin Creel as “Jean-Michel”,
Michael Mulheren as “Edouard Dindon”,
Linda Balgord as “Mme. Dindon”,
Ruth Williamson as “Jacqueline”,
Angela Gayor as “Anne”,
Merwin Foard as “M. Renaud”,
and Michael Benjamin Washington as “Jacob”.
This revival was nominated for 4 Tony Awards in 2005 winning 2 for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Choreography (for Jerry Mitchell).
The 2nd and most recent Broadway revival arrived on Broadway in 2010 at the Longacre Theatre for a complete total of 448 performances. This production was a transfer of an acclaimed scaled-down version of the musical that started in London. Under the direction of Terry Johnson and choreography by Lynne Page, the cast featured….
Tony winner Douglas Hodge (later the show’s book writer himself Harvey Fierstein) as “Albin”,
A.J. Shively as “Jean-Michel”,
Elena Shaddow (later Heather Lindell) as “Anne”,
And Tony nominee Robin De Jesus (later Tony winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia) as “Jacob”.
The 2010 revival was nominated for 11 Tony Awards that year winning 3 including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (for Douglas Sills), and Best Direction of a Musical (for Terry Johnson).
Isn’t this musical so fabulous?!