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Opinion: ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ not so satisfying

March 22, 2012
By SARAH REED , The Herald-Star

PITTSBURGH - The Benedum Center recently transformed into a glamorous nightspot as the revival tour of "La Cage Aux Folles" sashayed its way through a recent run. The musical, though full of laughs, zippy music and high-stepping choreography, did not deliver a fully satisfying theatrical experience.

Amusing mayhem unfolds behind the scenes of a glitzy St. Tropez nightclub called La Cage Aux Folles, as owner Georges is staggered by his son's announcement of engagement to a morally tight-laced politician's daughter, who has been speaking with utmost vehemence against St. Tropez's pleasure houses. Amidst the chaotic attempt to create a respectable atmosphere in Georges' and his partner's living quarters above the club and their lifestyles for the sake of impressing the conservative politician and his wife as they insist upon meeting their future-son-in-law's family, the boundlessness of true familial love is realized.

Top-billed player and acclaimed television and movie actor George Hamilton as Georges, failed to provide the support of a strong leading man. Hamilton showed no true signs of connection with either his role or his fellow cast-mates, making his stage presence rather nondescript. His scenes with Billy Harrigan Tighe, who portrayed Jean-Michel, Georges' son, lacked a great deal of persuasive or paternal stateliness, and his many scenes with Christopher Sieber's Albin, Georges' partner and La Cage's lead entertainer, were sadly void of the strong affection Georges should show Albin. Hamilton's vocals also proved not to be particularly strong as he crooned such songs as the romantic "Song on the Sand" and "Look Over There."

Edifying the production with more than sufficient amounts of energy, comedic skill and heart-tugging emotion was Christopher Sieber as Albin. Sieber succeeded in creating a man who was easily damaged and in need of hiding behind his cabaret act personage Zsa Zsa while also supplying the musical with huge amounts of laughter with his outrageous antics, such as when he evoked audience participation, especially from those he did not feel were following his commands correctly. Sieber also achieved sympathy with his highly stirring rendition "I Am What I Am," in which Albin expresses his grief for not being accepted as he is.

Also bringing strong performances were Michael McCormick and Cathy Newman as Monsieur and Madame Dindon, the uptight politician and his wife, respectively. McCormick's quickly annoyed and exasperated interpretation showed most amusingly against Newman's meek Madame Dindon and the wild behavior, especially of those connected with La Cage's world.

Featuring some inventive choreographic moments, such as when beach balls were thrown out into the audience allowing them to be batted around to virtually anywhere in the orchestra section, and catchy tunes and upbeat lyrics by Jerry Herman, who penned such musicals as "Hello, Dolly!" and "Mame," the show was strengthened with an enjoyable vivaciousness.

Despite the musical's winsome qualities, the touring production of "La Cage Aux Folles" did not quite meet the mark of excellence overall. Lacking stability from its headlining performer, some of the minor performers and the noticeably rushed pace of an otherwise pleasurable story, the musical failed to offer a well-rounded theatrical occasion.

(Reed is theater critic for Weekender.)

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