Families come in all shapes and sizes: It’s the message at the heart of “La Cage aux Folles,” says Hans Bachmann, who’ll be directing the upcoming McLean Community Players’ production of the musical.
“A loving family is a good thing, regardless of what it consists of,” Bachmann says.
In “La Cage aux Folles,” that family consists of Saint-Tropez nightclub owner Georges and his longtime partner Albin, who as Zaza is the star of Georges’ drag show. Together they’ve raised Jean-Michel, a son conceived during Georges’ one-night dalliance with a woman. From his infancy Georges and Albin have been his parents, but the newly engaged Jean-Michel fears that his fiancée’s super-conservative parents won’t approve of their lifestyle. Jean-Michel puts forth a plan for an amicable, yet altogether false, meeting of the parents that demonstrates the sacrifices Georges and Albin are willing to make for their son.
The musical, based on French playwright Jean Poiret’s work of the same name and adapted by writer and gay rights activist Harvey Fierstein, made its Broadway debut in 1983 at a time of widespread homophobia. Through activism and understanding, homosexuality has gained greater acceptance in the 30 years since the musical’s release. But Bachmann says its message is still relevant, and perhaps even more relevant, today. He points out that The Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting same-sex marriage was recently ruled unconstitutional, more states are allowing gay couples to wed, and younger generations are becoming more comfortable with alternative family structures.
Bachmann praises the talents of the actors who portray the heads of the atypical household in “La Cage aux Folles.” Christopher Furry as Albin and Harv Lester as Georges play the parts with charisma that invites audiences to relate to them, Bachmann says, to watch Georges and Albin interact and find similarities to their own relationships. While the characters and setting could lend themselves to easy laughs, Bachmann says he prefers to play to the humor inherent to the reality constructed in the show. Lyrics and music by Jerry Herman, Bachmann says, the mind behind such mid-century musicals as “Hello, Dolly!,” lend a traditional style to a musical that, while unusual at its surface, at its heart tells a classic tale.
“It truly is a family show,” Bachmann says. “It’s just a good old-fashioned musical about a family conflict that ultimately resolves itself.”
“La Cage aux Folles” runs Jan. 31 – Feb. 16. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. The play will be performed at the McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Tickets are $18 – $20. For more information, visit mcleanplayers.org or call 866-811-4111.