The Grand Theatre will present La Cage aux Folles from May 9 through 25.
La Cage aux Folles is a heartwarming musical that focuses on the life of a gay couple, Georges, and his partner Aldin, who is also the star attraction as a drag queen at a St. Tropez nightclub.
Hilarity ensues when George’s son, Jean Michel, brings home his fiancée and her socially conservative parents. In an effort to avoid embarrassment Jean Michel asks both Georges and Aldin to pretend to be something they are not.
“I love this show because at its heart it’s a fun, delightful musical that has flash and glitz while at the same time is very socially poignant,” said actor David Hanson, who plays Georges.
The show originally opened in 1983 on Broadway and was a winner of 6 Tony awards including Best Musical and Best Score, and was later remade as the 1996 film The Birdcage starring Robin Williams.
This will be only the second time La Cage aux Folles has been staged in Salt Lake City.
“I honestly think that there is a strong element within this community that is more open than the media portrays,” continues Hansen. “We are progressing more than most people think, and frankly, this play would appeal to anybody because the challenges presented in the play would affect any family.”
The focus of “La Cage” is not so much on the lifestyle of drag queens but on the challenges of their diverse family and Jean Michel’s struggle to avoid embarrassment as he prepares to introduce his fiancée’s parents to his own. The heart and soul of the play is how Georges and Aldin try to help their son while still maintaining the essence of who they are.
“If you look across the board we have all been embarrassed by our parents at some point and that’s the universal truth of this story,” said actor Kenneth Wayne Parrish, who plays Aldin. “Someone once said a man in a dress is funny for about 5 minutes, but a man who can play a legitimate woman is funny for hours. Our director (Brent Schneider) says this is a show with drag in it but it’s not a drag show.”
“I have never asked an audience to bleed for me, but I surely have bled for the audience.”
Parrish previously played Aldin in a 2005 production at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City and says that part of the reason he was chosen to again play the role was because he brought a very “maternal quality” to the character.
Parrish is a phlebotomist at Riverton Hospital and says that his maternal qualities have helped him deal with emotional people when they are having their blood drawn.
“I have never asked an audience to bleed for me, but I surely have bled for the audience,” joked Parrish.
The interplay between Georges and Aldin is a driving dynamic of the play, specifically when they are asked to pretend to be something they are not in order to please Jean Michel. Their interaction on stage is a critical part of the play and a major reason why Hanson was chosen to play opposite Parrish.
“I think the reason I was chosen to play Georges goes back to the first night I auditioned with Kenny (Parrish),” said Hanson. “We clicked right off the bat, and during the hour we spent auditioning, we fell right into it.”
Despite the challenges that a play about gay couples and drag queens may face in a conservative market like Salt Lake City.
The actors feel confident that audiences will relate to the family’s struggles and realize that at heart, it’s similar to the issues they experience in their own families.
“There is genuine love in this show; the fact that it happens to be coming from a gay couple becomes irrelevant by the end of the show,” said Parrish. “It’s about a family showing their love and support for each other no matter what they are asked to do.”