I wonder how the initial financing pitch for "La Cage aux Folles" might have gone. Possibly something like this:
OK, so there's this gay couple, and one of them had a one-night stand with a woman 20 years ago. She gets pregnant, but the two men raise the baby. The whole thing takes place at a drag club in France, and you can't tell which performers are men and which are women. The son is now engaged to a girl, and her parents are very conservative, so one dad has to pretend to be a woman in order to trick her parents so the kids can get married . . . and it's a musical.
The producers gave it the green light in the early '80s, and the show went on to become one of the biggest Broadway hits of the decade. If it sounds familiar, it was adapted by Elaine May and Mike Nichols into the film "The Birdcage," starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. One of the most lauded musicals in history, the original 1983 Broadway production received six Tony Awards and spawned several tours and international productions. A 2004 revival won the Tony for Best Revival, and the 2010 revival starring Kelsey Grammer also won Best Revival, making it the only Broadway show that has won Tony Awards every time it has been produced.
“La Cage aux Folles”
JACK GRACE photo
Lana Canton (from left), Makana Gabin and Nomi Macadangdang star in “High School Musical.”
Kaizzer Fernandez photo
Playing the two leads on Maui are Robert Wills as Georges and Steven Dascoulias as Albin, aka "Zaza," the star attraction of the Saint-Tropez drag club. Directing the local production is Alexis Dascoulias, Steven's real-life spouse.
I asked her why and how America embraced this show in the '80s, a time when AIDS was a taboo subject and few celebrities were open about their homosexuality. "I think some audience members may have thought, 'Well, that's France,' " she said. "Perhaps it was easier to enjoy the show with that distance, as part of another culture. The story is really about a parent-child relationship and unconditional love. You have to wonder if not for the homosexual couple, how racy would the story even be? There's nothing really objectionable in this show, and when it first came out it was compared to 'Hello, Dolly' and 'Mame,' bring-the-whole-family productions."
Dascoulias cast two straight men to play Georges and Albin, and she shared her thoughts about the actors. "They're both suited for the roles. The show isn't about sexual persuasion. Bob is a father, and I love what he brings to the role as a father first. Albin is an emotional rollercoaster. He's funny and he's fragile, but he's also strong. Ultimately, he has to be believable, he can't be a caricature, and Steven brings that."
"La Cage aux Folles" takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, starting this week to March 16 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The performance (book by Harvey Fierstein, based on the French play by Jean Poiret) includes music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, direction by Alexis Dascoulias, choreography by Kalani Whitford and musical direction by William Asher. Tickets range from $17 to $28. Call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.
Steven previously played Albin in 2005 at the Seacoast Repertory Theater in Portsmouth, N.H. "The singing is demanding, and the challenges of the character are like no other role I've played," he said. "Costumes, hair and make-up raise the stakes - getting those elements working fluidly and truthfully is a great part of the fun of the role."
On opening night Friday, Maui OnStage will also feature "Gay-La," a pre- and post-show party with French pastries, gourmet coffees and hand-dipped chocolate strawberries, plus door prizes such as a three-night staycation at Maui Sunseeker and a VIP package for the upcoming MOS Sneak Peek event. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.; the celebration continues late into the night with a post-show toast and cast party. Tickets are $50 for orchestra and $40 for mezzanine.
ALSO THIS WEEK
* Kamehameha Schools Maui Drama Club presents "Alice in Wonderland," directed by Vicki McGee. This musical version is based on the Lewis Carroll book and the classic characters Alice, the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts. Performances are 7 p.m. Friday and 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday at the performing arts hall on the Kamehameha Schools Maui in Kula. Admission is free.
* Baldwin High School presents "High School Musical," by David Simpatico, directed by Linda Carnevale, choreographed by Andre Morissette and under the musical direction of Tana Larson. Shows are at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, this weekend through March 9, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on March 8, in the Baldwin High School Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for 17 and younger, available only at the door one hour prior to showtime.
* Seabury Hall Performing Arts presents "The Diviners," by Jim Leonard and directed by Sally Sefton. Performances are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays starting this week, with a closing 3 p.m. Sunday matinee March 9, in the A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 573-1257 or visit www.seaburyhall.org.
* King Kekaulike High presents Shakespeare's "The Tempest," directed by Chris Kepler. Performances are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the cafetorium at the King Kekaulike campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $8 for adults, and $6 for students, available at the door only one half hour before the show.
* ProArts Playhouse presents "The Play's the Thing" by Ferenc Molnar, adapted by P.G. Wodehouse and directed by Jonathan Lehman. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Cost is $22 with kamaaina discounts available for Hawaii residents tonight. For tickets or more information, call 463-6550.
* Alexander Academy Performing Company presents Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," directed by Danelle Watson. AAPC stages one full-length production each year to showcase the talent and skill of more than 150 dancers, ages 3 to adult, for the enjoyment of the Maui community. Special to this year's production is professional ballet dancer Nathaniel Hunt, who will join the cast as Prince Siegfried. Performances are 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 15 and 16, in the A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Cost ranges from $10 to $30. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.alexanderacademy.info.