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How La Cage aux Folles Took Wing and Landed Back on Broadway

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1. 1973 Playwright Jean Poiret writes and stars in La Cage aux Folles, a play about two gay men living in Saint-Tropez—one a nightclub owner, the other a flamboyant drag queen. The two have their lives turned upside down when the son of one of the men announces he is getting married, and the pair are forced to conceal their lifestyles when the fiancée and her right- wing-politico parents come to dinner. Highlights: erotic soup bowls and shoeless butler.

2. 1978 Poiret co-writes the screenplay, and La Cage becomes a smash French farce starring Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault.

3. 1980 The sequel, La Cage aux Folles II: a spy caper involving stolen microfilm.

4. 1983 The musical of La Cage aux Folles opens on Broadway—music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Harvey Fierstein, directed by Arthur Laurents. It’s Broadway’s first explicitly gay musical, but there is not a single kiss. George Hearn and Gene Barry star as Georges and Albin, and the show sweeps the Tonys and spawns a breakout hit: the anthem “I Am What I Am,” later recorded by Gloria Gaynor.

5. 1985 Another French sequel: La Cage aux Folles 3. Albin must marry a woman to inherit a fortune.

6. 1996 Mike Nichols directs The Birdcage, an American twist on La Cage starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, and set in South Beach. Highlights: erotic soup bowls and shoeless butler (played by Hank Azaria).

7. 2004 Director Jerry Zaks brings La Cage back to Broadway, right in time for the election. Highlights: erotic soup bowls and shoeless butler—not to mention timely plot about gay marriage and repressive red-state pols.


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