La Cage Aux Follies | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

La Cage Aux Follies 

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LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, Drury Lane Theatre Evergreen Park. Gay activists who deride this mainstream musical forget just how radical it can be. For all its androgynous glitz and farcical laughs, Jerry Herman's Tony-winning work pushes many hot buttons: gay marriage, gay parenting, sexual privacy, the family's changing image. Happily, laughter is an argument that only life haters will resist, which is what makes this musical accessible. The frothy plot argues a persuasive but undogmatic case for tolerance, as two Riviera poofs hide their "lifestyle" from their beloved son's puritanical potential in-laws--yet Georges and Zaza are the perfect parents.

In addition to Herman's singable score and laugh-inducing lyrics, La Cage aux Folles is a marvel of taut dramatic construction, with a terrific first-act finale and a farcical buildup in the second that reduces bigotry to a contemptible cartoon. Marc Robin's riotous revival showcases the workmanship, from killer choreography (which spoofs everything from the cancan to Minsky's burlesque) to the psychological precision of even the broadest sight gags.

Time has stood still for the glorious Zaza of James Harms, who concocted his cunning combination of flaming pizzazz and lyrical self-pity 12 years ago at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. As his longtime companion (the "plain homosexual"), Roger Anderson offers sturdy if unimpassioned support. Dale Benson fairly sneers in stereo as the stuffed-shirt homophobe, and Mark Townsend's mincing "maid" is one big lavender laugh machine.

--Lawrence Bommer

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