Withering Glance: It's the home boy in 'La Cage'

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2011 - 7:31 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

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George Hamilton and Christopher Sieber (who grew up in Forest Lake) in "La Cage Aux Folles."

Photo: Paul Kolnik, Paul Kolnik

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RN: So, Mr. Late-Blooming Showtunes Lover, what was your favorite moment from "La Cage aux Folles"?

CP: By far, it was seeing Forest Lake High grad Christopher Sieber, as Albin, totally own, sell and nail the before-intermission empowerment ballad "I Am What I Am" at the State Theatre.

RN: Perhaps you will now stop teasing me about my love for the Broadway musical.

CP: I fumbled for the "rewind" button, then remembered this was live theater.

RN: I hate it when that happens.

CP: I also loved "A Little More Mascara." It's every bit as good a "Drag Helps Me Cope" song as "Wig in a Box" from "Hedwig."

RN: When I saw this same "La Cage" production in New York last year, I was reminded how composer Jerry Herman pretty much wrote four songs for the whole show, then repeated the heck out of them. Still, they're four fabulous songs. The rest? Meh. "Song on the Sand" sounds as if it was plucked from the "Mame" reject pile.

CP: The show's first half is so buoyant. After the intermission, it turns flatter than a drag queen's actual chest. All those reprises. And the whole uptight-family story feels stodgy and dated.

RN: I know. Had the book been written in 2011 instead of 1983, that ungrateful kid would have been thrilled rather than embarrassed to have Two Gay Dads.

CP: The mostly nongay audience lapped it up with a spoon. How do you feel about the show as a representation of the gays?

RN: Not so much. I loved how Les Cagelles were wig-wearing muscle boys rather than flouncy drag queens. But the rest of it is a bit tired and heatless. In the B'way production, Kelsey Grammer -- who was essentially doing a "Frasier" episode with a toupee and a full orchestra -- exuded about as much romantic interest in his Albin -- played by Tony winner Douglas Hodge -- as Frasier did for Niles. You?

CP: George Hamilton, who plays Georges here, gave Albin a kiss so unconvincing it made me squirm. I like critic Graydon Royce's observation that Hamilton reminded him of Bob Barker in the role.

RN: A French farce set in the Showcase Showdown. I love it.

CP: There is a good message there, about a long-term relationship between men.

RN: A Broadway musical first, believe it or not.

CP: And it is written by a majorhomo, Harvey Fierstein.

RN: Let's not forget Mr. Herman. He doesn't get the highbrow veneration that Stephen Sondheim generates, but our Mr. Hummable Showtune is a major gay American hero. Hello, Jerry!

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com. Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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