Kelsey Grammer Is Big Draw, Drawback in Smart ‘La Cage’ Revival

Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge
Kelsey Grammer, left, and Douglas Hodge play longtime lovers in "La Cage aux Folles" in New York. The musical revival is running at the Longacre Theatre. Photographer: Joan Marcus/Hartman Group PR via Bloomberg

The chorus of six long-limbed drag queens in the latest Broadway revival of Jerry Herman’s “La Cage aux Folles” is half that of two earlier outings.

The reductions in this stripped-down version, Broadway’s latest import from London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, seem especially stark as it follows closely a 2005 revival that matched the opulent 1985 Tony-winning original sequin for sequin.

Yet unlike the shrunken revivals of other big Broadway musicals, this one makes sense. Terry Johnson’s smart, tight, rough-edged and slightly tacky production gets closer to the sort of scene one might actually find in a transvestite club on the French Riviera.

It helps that “La Cage” is housed in the Longacre, a smaller Broadway theater, adding to an intimacy that set designer Tim Shortall has exploited to good effect.

The box-office draw is Kelsey Grammer, of TV’s “Frasier,” as Georges, the soigne master of ceremonies. The main reason for seeing the show is Douglas Hodge as Albin, the aging headliner and Georges’s partner of 20 years.

The sentimental story concerns a son -- fathered by Georges and reared with Albin -- who returns home engaged to the daughter of a bigoted right-wing minister. The son asks Albin to disappear for one evening while his biological mother and Georges host a “normal” dinner for the girl’s parents, breaking Albin’s heart.

Trucker in Gown

Hodge, who is built like a long-haul trucker but still looks reasonably good in a gown, makes Albin vulnerable and a little pathetic, in addition to being endearingly funny.

Grammer is charmless and can’t sing, a problem for which I forgive the producers because the rest of the cast is so good. Tops among them are Robin de Jesus, as Albin’s conniving, stage-struck assistant and Veanne Cox as the fiancee’s smoldering tigress of a mom.

At 220 W. 48th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; Rating: **1/2

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(Jeremy Gerard is an editor and critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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