Monday, January 4, 2016

La Cage Aux Folles

While watching the PBS documentary "Broadway: the American Musical" I saw Jerry Herman make the following acceptance speech when winning the Tony Award for Best Score in 1984:

One of the shows La Cage beat for most Tony Awards was Sunday in the Park with George --which is, if you didn't know, my favorite musical, by my favorite composer of musicals, Stephen Sondheim, and very much NOT a show of the "simple, hummable show tune." I LOST MY SHIT. I started yelling at the TV, "HOW DARE YOU, JERRY HERMAN?????? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE: IRVING BERLIN!?!?!?!?!?!"

So, naturally, I did NOT want to like La Cage Aux Folles. I even considered NOT listening to it as a Jerry Herman boycott* (Jerry Herman denied that this was a direct dig at Sondheim... but who does he think he's fooling?? Get off your high horse, Jerry!). However, this show did do a lot of good. It helped found the Broadway Cares: Equity Fights Aids organization, and clearly the message is good (whether you're gay or straight, anyone can get behind "I am what I am.")

Plus, Harvey Fierstein.

So, I begrudgingly started listening to it... and of course I really enjoyed it. Even despite my new cynicism towards Herman, I would still say the book and story are better than the music, but the music IS catchy as hell. It's not particularly special, deep or interesting music, but it's certainly simple and hummable.

I listened to the 2010 revival cast with Kelsey Grammar and Douglas Hodge. If you want to be completely delighted, watch this Tony Award performance of "The Best of Times" with Hodge:

So, Jerry Herman might be a total A-HOLE, but he did help make something really nice.

Plus, Harvey Fierstein!!

La Cage Aux Folles
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Harvey Fierstein

*I wouldn't have been able to keep the Herman boycott up very long, anyway. I really, really like some of the music from Hello Dolly-- especially, "Put On Your Sunday Clothes."

(On a related Dolly/ Herman note, there is a line in La Cage when Georges says to Albi, "You came *this close* to getting that tour of Dolly!" I know Dolly Levi has been played by a man in drag before, and I believe it's being played by a man in drag RIGHT NOW in Los Angeles. But, in general, I need this to stop. There are so many roles for men in the theatre. There are so many DRAG ROLES for men in the theatre (Look at this show! Look at Kinky Boots! Look at Priscilla!). There are more than enough roles for men in the theatre and WAY less male actors than female actors. I can't take it anymore. To take a show with 3 named female characters and give one of them to a man is unacceptable. For every show you replace a role that was written for a woman and give it to a man in drag, you should have to produce 2 all-female shows.)

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