The Grand's 'La Cage aux Folles' is 'a timeless story,' director says

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 4:37 p.m. MDT

Kenny Wayne Parrish as Zaza, and Dave Hanson as Georges in the Grand Theatre production of "La Cage aux Folles"

Steve Fidel

Enlarge photo»

Soon after “La Cage aux Folles” opened on Broadway, it was hailed as a “worldwide smash farce — a crowd-pleasing mélange of mascara and moxie that dominated the 1984 Tony Awards.”

The musical is a record-holder as the only show to win the Tony Award three times, once for Best Musical at its premiere and twice for Best Revival of a Musical, in 2005 and 2010.

“ ‘La Cage aux Folles’ won 11 Tony Awards in total because of the amazing book and music,” says Brent Schneider. “And it is a timeless story that resonates with everyone, because it is all about love of family.

“It’s a story about a child who is embarrassed of his parents, about parents who are caught in the middle and wondering what they did wrong with their child, about dealing with an upcoming marriage, about dealing with in-laws — all of the issues that this play touches on are universal.”

Schneider, who directs and choreographs “La Cage aux Folles” at the Grand Theatre, adds that the lush, singable score with laugh-out-loud lyrics “is really an integral part of the show and drives the storyline and also makes for amazing production numbers.”

Composer Jerry Herman is celebrated for two musicals that have been produced as films, “Hello, Dolly!” and “Mame.” And each has songs that have become part of the American Songbook, including the title songs and “Before the Parade Passes By,” “If He Walked Into My Life” and “We Need a Little Christmas.”

(Animation enthusiasts will also recall two songs Herman composed are central to the Disney-Pixar film “WALL-E,” when the title character finds inspiration to hold hands with his companion robot, named EVE.)

“And ‘La Cage aux Folles’ has songs with the same energy as those two musicals,” he says. “The song ‘The Best of Times’ was used as a theme at the Republican National Convention eight years ago, and ‘Song on the Sand’ is one of those songs that people will say, ‘I know that song, but I didn’t know where it came from.’ ”

While the storyline will be familiar to filmgoers who have seen the 1978 French film of the same name and the 1996 movie “The Birdcage” that starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane,” the musical is based on a 1973 French play by Jean Poiret.

The action happens at a French Riviera drag nightclub run by Georges, whose life-partner, Albin, is the show’s star attraction, the local drag superstar known as Zaza. The story is set in motion when Georges’ son, Jean-Michel, returns home intending to marry the daughter of a conservative politician.

“When Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman decided to adapt ‘La Cage aux Folles’ as a musical for Broadway, they tried to get the rights to the movie and could not,” Schneider explains. “They only got the rights to adapt the play, and some of the characters that are in the movie are not in the musical.”

What enthuses Schneider most strongly about the staging is the strong storyline.

“The show has so much heart and soul that it is infectious. I’m a romantic at heart, and I hope that comes through in the production.”

Content advisory: mild profanities

If you go …

What: “La Cage aux Folles”

Where: The Grand Theatre

When: May 9-25

How much: $24-$10

Tickets: 801-957-3322 or the-grand.org

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