La Cage aux Folles is a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman. It was based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, and focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction. The farcical adventures that ensue when Georges' son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée's ultra-conservative parents to meet them truly allows the show to kick into full-gear.
The musical's original 1983 Broadway production received nine nominations for Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. The success of the musical spawned a West End production and several international runs. The 2004 Broadway revival won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and the 2008 London revival garnered the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival.
The show opens with Georges introducing the Cagelles for the first time. In the original Broadway production, there were at least 2 females in the Cagelles, and they ended this number by taking off their wigs, revealing their sex. This caused some controversy, as many thought it a sell-out move to make the audience more at ease. In subsequent productions, they are played by men. The following clip is from the 2008 London revival.
The show was groundbraking, bing the first Broadway musical to star male lovers. This, of course, was made easier by the success of the French movie of the same name, but was still provocative at the time. Song On The Sand was a beautiful love song, with Georges singing about his love for the star of the drag show and his long-time love, Albin. This clip shows Davis Gaines singing from a 1993 concert, Jerry Herman's Broadway at Holiday Bowl.
The most memorable gon from the show is I Am What I Am, a show-stopper to be sure, as well as an international hit pop/disco for Miss Gloria Gaynor. It is sung by Albin, who flies in the face of societal pressures and proudly proclaims 'Life's not worth a damn 'til I can say world, I am what I am.' George Hearn played it to perfection in the original production, but there was many complaints when he went on the Tony Awards and sang the song in a tuxedo rather than doing the number in drag. In the revival on London's West End, the role of Albin was played by many different stars, including Graham Norton and most recently by John Barrowman. This is a clip from Barrowman's appearance on the Paul O'Grady Show in September.
The show most certainly broke some barriers for the LGBT community, showing gay men and drag queens to be real people to the musical audience. It might not have suited everyone's taste, but it certainly helped open the minds of many who went to see it. And it gave us I Am What I Am, a song that is a staple at every Gay Pride Parade I have ever seem. The official website of the London revival here.