Friday, March 16, 2012



Tamar Cerafici, Esquire

"It's all an illusion!"
I admit it. I’m an ardent fan of La Cage Aux Folles, the French stage play, the French movie and its sequels, and the musical. As a result I’m a bit starry-eyed when I watch anything having to do with a certain St. Tropez nightclub.

It’s hard to explain La Cage to non-fans (and you know who you are). I do so in chiding manner, feeling that your lives would be better, not because the play is about a mature, loving, and long-term relationship between two men. Your lives would be better for knowing that humor and love must be the basis of any relationship. If you can belt out a few Broadway showstoppers while you’re at it, even better.

Hamilton and Sieber in finale
The plot: La Cage Aux Folles (or Birdcage, the unfortunate title of the unfortunate American adaptation starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane) is a nightclub on the French Riviera, run by Georges.  The all-male nightclub show features La Cagelles and the glorious Zaza, who is George’s partner Albin. George and Albin have raised Jean-Michel, George’s son from a brief heterosexual fling in Paris.  They raised him in the apartment above the nightclub.

Jean-Michel announces that he is going to marry the daughter of a socially conservative politician. The fiancée, socially conservative father, and repressed mother are all coming to stay overnight at the apartment over La Cage. Jean-Michel engineers the party that does not include his transvestite “mother” Albin. He does think to invite the mother he’s never seen in order to present a traditional family unit to his future father-in-law.  Dramatic tension follows, including one of the best songs of the musical, “I Am What I Am.”

Unfortunately, Jean-Michel’s mother stays in Amsterdam to marry a duke.   Albin, after trying valiantly to function as “Uncle Al” resumes his more comfortable role as Zaza, playing the loving mother and wife he always has been. Of course Comedy returns, as politician, wife, and fiancée discover Albin’s true identity. Jean-Michel finally understands what respect and love mean, and the politician is forced to rely on the “arch-enemies” of society to avoid being caught at La Cage Aux Folles.

That’s the show. It’s hard not to be entertained with that kind of plot line, non?   The musical is a classic – Jerry Herman (Hello Dolly, Mame) and Harvey Fierstein wrote the music and the book.  It’s just delightful.

I have to mention George Hamilton as a formality. I mean, that’s why we go to see a show that features George Hamilton. His tan did not disappoint. It was fun to watch him being George Hamilton being Georges, but he was by no means the best Georges I’ve seen. His vocal range is limited, and I’m sure I’ll offend all the Zorro: The Gay Blade fans when I say his Georges wasn’t at all convincing. He seemed tired in the first act. He looked every bit the Riviera bon vivant one would expect to own a nightclub. Hamilton perked up for the second act, and was able to carry off the finale with panache.

Seiber and Hamilton as Zaza
and Geoges
But, oh! My praise is reserved for Christopher Sieber! I am in LOVE with this man. Aside from being the only actor in New York NOT to appear on Law & Order, he is hands down one of the finest actors on Broadway and on tour. I was so excited to see him tear up the scenery at the Benedum!

His valiant Zaza was brilliant, his voice clear and powerful, and his Albin had all the pathos you’d want in a man whose fondest dream was to perform and be with the man he loved. He was a brilliant contrast to the repressed political wife, and a great foil to the local socialite/restauranteuse, Jaqueline. His performance of the main anthem – closing the first act in typical Jerry Herman style – was moving and militant at the same time. Seiber’s “I Am What I Am” must stand head to head with Channing’s “Before the Parade Passes By.” But it’s more -- it’s the great anthem of an age and a movement - written during the first stages of the AIDs epidemic, the song carries with it pride, strength, and courage to be fiercely individual in spite of cultural limitations.

Like all musicals, the two main characters carry the show while ingénues and lesser characters provide continuity, without much – well – "muchness", as the Mad Hatter would say. The supporting cast did yeomanlike work populating the set, with one great exception:

Les Cagelles and George Hamilton IV
Les Cagelles! Brilliant to a fault, dancers, roller skaters, and dominatrixes all, the men of the chorus carried the show when Seiber could not. At points, they carried Seiber. Each was a clearly defined character, lacking utterly in the burlesque stereotype that would have cheapened the show. They were the nightclub, the act, the glue that held Georges and Albin together – their true family. Brilliant chemistry, choreography and performances brought the club and the Riviera to life.

DO NOT miss this chance to see one of the greatest musicals of the late 20th century, and one of Jerry Herman’s last. You will not be disappointed. Come to see George Hamilton’s tan. Leave a raving fan of the play and of Christopher Seiber. That’s all this humble reviewer asks.

  • Author, Consultant at Dominate! How Smart Lawyers CRUSH the Competition
  • Environmental Lawyer at Cerafici Law Firm
  • Owner at The Barefoot Barrister
  • Spent her Pre Law Years at Brigham Young as a drama major.

Attorney Cerafici is an internationally recognized leader and legal specialist in the often complex and challenging nuclear regulatory industry. She has been at the forefront of the industry in building regulatory and policy framework for a new generation of nuclear plants. She was a major contributor to the first Early Site Permit granted under 10 CFR part 52, successfully implementing alternative site analyses that have become the general standard.

She's also an internationally known expert on marketing techniques for lawyers, and other billable-hour professionals, speaking around the world to delighted audiences everywhere. 

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