Theater review: 'La Cage aux Folles' with Harvey Fierstein -- 3 stars
La Cage aux Folles
When Harvey Fierstein was hired as the book writer of “La Cage aux Folles” nearly 30 years ago, he probably didn’t imagine that one day he’d be asked to take over the starring role of Albin, who is both the diva of a drag nightclub and a devoted gay father.
The painfully idiotic “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” which opened last week and is also about drag performers, really makes you appreciate “La Cage,” which is not just cheeky but really well-written, too.
The farcical, feel-good musical, which contains tuneful songs by Jerry Herman, observes two gay men who have raised a son together and remain very much in love. While Georges manages the nightclub, Albin transforms himself nightly into the tackily glamorous Zaza.
Their son, Jean-Michel, comes home unexpectedly with the announcement that he’s getting married and that his future father-in-law is a notoriously homophobic politician. Since the bride’s family wants to meet his mother and father, Jean-Michel asks his birth mother to show up and Albin to go into hiding for the night.
With his frog-like voice and oversized figure, Fierstein is perhaps the most unlikely person ever cast in the role of Zaza. But wearing a large corset and fake eyelashes, he delivers a winning performance that mixes playful clowning and expert comic delivery with genuine sensitivity.
Christopher Sieber, who took over as Georges at the last minute after Jeffrey Tambor quit, is also terrific. His strong voice is well-suited to ballads like “Song on the Song” and “Look Over There.”
Sieber is just as dashing and determined as Fierstein is bizarre, and together they make a perfect pair.
“La Cage aux Folles” plays an open run at the Longacre Theatre. 220 W. 48th St., 212-239-6200, lacage.com.