Theatre / La Cage aux folles

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La Romance...
La Spectacle...

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I beg you, open your eyes, for you have arrived...at La Cage aux Folles."
Georges

With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, La Cage aux Follesnote  is a hilarious, touching, thought-provoking classic story about family and tolerance loved by millions the world over and naturally loathed by christian conservatives. Originally a French stage play written by Jean Poiret that debuted in 1973, a Franco-Italian movie adaptation was released in 1978 which garnered two sequels and was eventually Americanized as the 1996 hit comedy film, The Birdcage. This entry concerns both the American musical adaptation, which had its first production on Broadway in 1983 as well as the non-musical Franco-Italian movies.

Set in Saint-Tropez, France, the story centers around a gay couple, Georges and Albin. Georges is the proprietor and master of ceremonies of the eponymous, popular nightclub, La Cage aux Folles (translated as "The Cage of Mad Women")note  which features drag entertainment. Albin is the club's headlining star, performing nightly as his celebrated drag alter ego, "Zaza". Georges' son, Jean-Michel, who was conceived during a past one-time heterosexual liaison with a woman named Sybil and whom he raised with Albin for over twenty years, then pays a visit to announce his recent engagement to his girlfriend, Anne Dindon. Unfortunately, Anne's father happens to be Edouard Dindon, the notoriously homophobic Deputy General of the ultra-conservative Tradition, Family & Morality Party (TFM), aiming to close the local drag clubs upon reelection.

So when Anne's parents wish to meet those of her fiancé's over dinner, Jean-Michel tries to conceal the truth about his fathers, telling them Georges is a retired military veteran and married to a woman in order to receive their blessing. Georges is reluctantly persuaded to go along with the farce, redecorating their gaudy home and making the impossibly flamboyant Albin into Jean-Michel's machismo "Uncle" while Sybil will play George's wife. All seems lost when Albin simply just can't "play it straight" and Sybil cancels at the last minute, but as the families get awkwardly acquainted,...Albin fills in as "mother".

The show was a massive success on Broadway winning 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical. It is best known for its ground-breaking presentation of a happy, established gay couple, and for its proud message of tolerance (though ironically, for fear of offending any in the audience who disagree with the whole point of the show, the couple never kisses or does anything more). Nevertheless, Georges and Albin are shown to be a generous, loving pair capable of caring for a child and for one another. Having countless revivals over the years, it continues to be an icon in musical theatre (and recently in the West End) with one of it's songs, "I Am What I Am", becoming a rallying cry of the Gay Pride movement.


The musical and first film provide examples of the following tropes:

  • An Aesop/Gay Aesop: Whether gay or straight, a family is a family. No one should ever have to pretend to be anything other than who or what they are for others to accept them. Live and love as hard as you know how... because the best of times is now.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: The idea behind Les Cagelles, the club's stunning "showgirls" most, if not all, of which whom are actually men. In the original Broadway staging in The '80s, the director managed to sneak in two women into the drag queen lineup and the audience was faced with the extra challenge of figuring out which ones they were.
    • Albin as "Zaza".
    • Jacob could be this as well when in drag.
  • Bi the Way/If It's You, It's Okay: Georges and Sybil's one-time get-together which led to Jean-Michel.
  • Camp Gay: Any homosexual character apart from Georges (Renato in the film) or stage manager Francis even though Georges has subtle nuances of this.
  • Chekhov's Gag: La Cagelles, including Albin, often pull their own wigs off at the end of their numbers when performing in the cabaret. Unfortunately for Albin, old habits die hard, as when he's disguised as Jean-Michel's mother and is asked to sing in front of a crowded restaurant, he still ends up pulling his wig off at the end of the song, revealing his identity as a drag queen to Jean-Michel's conservative future in-laws.
  • Dark Reprise: "I Am What I Am" of "We Are What We Are"; one of the few numbers that manages to combine this with Triumphant Reprise. It's huge, assertive, and powerful, but it's not good news.
  • Disguised in Drag: When Sybil once again disappoints and decides not to show up for dinner, Albin is compelled to save the day by posing a Jean-Michel's mother somehow managing to fool the prospective in-laws.
    Georges" "Sorry Sybil" should be her name.
    • Invoked to spirit the Dindons out past the reporters Jacqueline brought.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Albin sings this in "I Am What I Am".
  • Drag Queen: Albin is a local celebrity as "Zaza".
    • Les Cagelles along with "Chantal", "Hannah from Hamburg" and "Phaedra, the Enigma".
    • Seemingly most of the club's employees which includes Drag Kings as well.
    • Jacob desperately aspires to be one.
  • Drama Queen/Large Ham: Albin and also Jacob.
  • French Maid: Jacob was hired as a butler, but insists on being referred to as the "maid" and may even don a French Maid Outfit much to Georges' annoyance.
  • The Ghost: Sybil.
  • Happily Married: Georges and Albin with an appropriate amount of drama.
  • Has Two Daddies: Jean-Michel (Laurent in the film) was raised by Georges and Albin.
  • Heteronormative Crusader/"Moral" Guardian: Edouard Dindon and the TFM.
  • Hilarity Ensues
  • I Am What I Am: The Trope Namer. Albin sings about how he, at least, is not ashamed of who he is.
  • It's Pronounced Tro-PAY: Names and places are pronounced properly in French, not in English. So Dindon, for example, is pronounced "den-dawn" while Albin is said as "al-ban".
    • Saint-Tropez ("san troh-pay")
    • Georges ("Zhjorge")
    • Jacob ("zhja-kohb").
    • Les Cagelles ("lay kah-zhjell").
  • Last Chorus Slow Down: "With Anne on My Arm" and "The Best of Times".
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Averted with Georges and Albin who are supposed to be middle-aged (though the age range in most character descriptions is usually anywhere from 40 to 60).
  • Parental Neglect: Despite being the biological mother, Sybil has hardly ever wanted anything to do with Jean-Michel throughout his life apart from the occasional birthday card (usually sent on her birthday). However, during the reprise of "Look Over There", Jean-Michel proudly proclaims Albin is his real "mother".
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Jacob.
  • Queer People Are Funny
  • Small Start Big Finish: "I Am What I Am"
    • "The Best of Times" starts off with Albin (as Zaza, and pretending to be Jean-Michel's mother) performing alone to a restaurant full of people, with everyone eventually joining in. Albin even gets so caught up in the moment that he pulls his wig off in celebration at the end of the song...
  • Straight Gay: Georges and, maybe Francis. Although Georges might display minor camp subtleties.
  • Strawman Political: Edouard Dindon (renamed Simon Charrier in the movie).
  • Title Drop: Reoccurring all throughout the show even as the title for one of the numbers no less.
  • Token Minority: Zany housekeeper Jacob was usually portrayed as a black man (or an ethnic minority) in a mostly white cast. Regardless of whatever ethnicity any of the characters were originally, the roles can be open to anyone depending on the production.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The Finale brings back "With You on My Arm", "La Cage aux Folles", "Song on the Sand" and, especially "The Best of Times" all in one big, epic, grandiose number once everything has worked out for our characters.
    • "Look Over There" has a small, but very potent one after Jean-Michel proudly states to the Dindons that Albin, though a man, was the only real maternal figure he ever had in his life.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The eponymous drag club.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: As you might expect with a drag club. With the exception of Georges and Francis, pretty much anyone at La Cage is this, especially Albin and Jacob.

We are what we are...

The Franco-Italian film trilogy (1978-1985).

  • Ascended Extra: In the first movie, Sybil is renamed Simone Deblon and is given a bigger and much more affectionate role as apposed to being The Ghost in the play and musical.
  • Hypocrite/Out with a Bang: In the first movie, Simon's boss, the president of a right-wing party that boasts "morality" and "tradition", dies in the arms of an underage prostitute.
  • Sleep Mask: Albin wears one in the first sequel.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: In the third movie, Albin will receive a massive fortune from a dead aunt,…provided he marries a woman and sires a child.

So hold this moment fast, and live and love as hard as you know how, and make this moment last, because the best of time is now...is now...is now.

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