Landmark Musicals: “La Cage Aux Folles” Will Run July 28 – August 12

(L.) Bill Williams as Albin; (R.) Darby Fegan as Georges. Photo by Max Woltman.

From Bill Williams (Albin/Zaza):

I’ve been wanting to play the role of Albin/Zaza for a long time and am finally getting the opportunity to do so with Landmark Musicals after getting to play the role of Tateh in RAGTIME with them earlier this year.

I think it’s more important than ever to have a conversation about people who are gay and/or different from the “norm” and showing them as experiencing life just like everyone else. Many people experience the problems of raising a child and the difficulties of keeping a marriage together, especially one that has already lasted for 20 years! In a time where the country seems so divided on many issues, including discrimination towards LGBTQ people and many others, I think it’s important for people to be able to come together for a few hours through a joyful and tuneful musical and forget those differences and feel that glow of warmth when they realize that we are all the same on the inside.

My take on Albin/Zaza is that of the great movie queens of yesteryear. Living larger than life and making things more dramatic than a more down-to-earth- person might, channeling the likes of Bette Davis and Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe. But on the inside, he’s still just a person who is filled with self-doubt, hurt that his son is turning his back on him (because the son feels embarrassed by him) and wondering if he’s getting too old to still be attractive to his husband. These are universal human themes that I think will appeal to all kinds of people. This show just happens to present it funnier and with terrific music by Jerry Herman! 

The thing I hope people who come to see the show ultimately take away with them is the power of learning to be yourself and not trying to change to please someone else. Each one of us is a unique individual and if we start trying to change ourselves for people who might judge us, than we have lost ourselves. The final song of Act 1, “I Am What I AM,” has been a gay anthem since it debuted on Broadway in 1983, but has now become more universal. It speaks to all people being able to take pride in who they are, standing in the light as the unique individual that they are! 

In many ways, it reminds me of the song “This Is Me” from the recent movie THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, but in Zaza’s words, “Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say, Hey world, I am what I am!”

From Darby Fegan

(who plays Georges, and is Musical Director for “La Cage aux Folles”):

As you may know, I am the Resident Music Director for Landmark Musicals, a position I treasure, because we do the greatest shows, the real chestnuts of the repertory; and also because the Landmark tradition is to always use live orchestras. We have Myra and Bob Cochnar, and the Landmark Board of Directors, to thank for their insistence to uphold the highest traditions and production values possible. Live orchestras add so much authenticity to the shows we do, an authenticity that cannot possibly be replicated by canned sound tracks. I had the great privilege to conduct an orchestra of 18, and a cast of 45, for our recent production of  “Ragtime.”

As far as me serving as Music Director for “La Cage,” as well as playing the role of Georges, we have hired Daniel Cummings to conduct the orchestra. Daniel is a fine conductor, and the orchestra calls for eight players, each of whom are featured in many brilliant passages showcasing each player. 

The score for “La Cage” was written by Jerry Herman, of “Hello Dolly,” and “Name” (sic) fame, and the book is by Harvey Fierstein. The songs are all wonderfully written, instantly accessible, hummable, and great fun to sing. 

This musical version of “La Cage” is based on the French film by the same name of the late 1970’s, and the better known American adaptation, “The Birdcage,” which starred Nathan Lane and Robin Williams. I play the character of Georges, the Robin Williams part. Georges is the father of Jean Michel, who is about to be married to his fiancé, Anne, whose parents are quite conservative. That’s where the fun begins! 

As far as playing the character of Georges, there is no sense in trying to emulate Robin Williams, as he was truly one of our greatest talents. The part of Georges lies well within my vocal range as a bass-baritone, and I believe that I am at the right time in my own life to bring my life experience to this character. The part of Georges has been on my bucket list for a good 25 years, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to bring him to life. I see the character of Georges as the grounding force in the play, amidst all the frenzy and hubbub of being the owner of a drag nightclub, and the life partner of the flamboyant Albin/Zaza. 

As “The Birdcage” took place in Miami, “La Cage” takes place in Saint Tropez, on the French Riviera. I had the good fortune to visit Saint Tropez a few years ago, and it is wonderfully colorful, and quintessentially French. We will have the brilliant set designs of our Resident Technical Director, Dahl Delu, the stunning original costumes of LaRue Schultz, and the incredibly intricate choreography by Louis and Courtney Giannini, showcasing the beautiful “Cagelles.” The stage direction is by the wonderfully creative Zane Barker, and the technical team is led by our Resident Stage Manager, the formidable Maddie Barker.

As I mentioned earlier, our last production was “Ragtime,” an epic show which deserves to be seen and heard at every opportunity. As “Ragtime” is a show that is perfectly suited for our current uncertain times, so is “La Cage Aux Folles” in its own way. At the conductor’s podium, I can recall hearing audience members literally gasp out loud during certain parts of “Ragtime,” as it is often hard-hitting and unsparing of the audience. In “La Cage,” we hope to hear audience members gasping for breath in laughter, as they are falling out of their seats! “La Cage Aux Folles” clearly has a message, a warm and very heartfelt one, and we hope that our audiences will come to love this show and its wonderfully colorful characters as much as we do! 

Ravishing! Sensual! Fabulous! Funny! La Cage aux Folles tells the story of George and Albin, a longtime couple and owners of Saint-Tropez’s most infamous and entertaining drag nightclub (where Albin headlines as the beautiful ZaZa). When George’s son plans to marry the daughter of a conservative politician, the family’s bonds are tested in a hysterical meeting of the families.

Written by Broadway legends Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book), La Cage aux Folles shows us that families come in many different shapes and sizes but are all defined by love.

The Tony Award La Cage aux Folles is based on the classic French comedy and was the inspiration for the film comedy The Birdcage. See this madcap extravaganza presented by Landmark Musicals, July 28-August 12, at the Rodey Theater. For info and tickets, go to www.landmarkmusicals.org.