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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Best of Times Were Then

Here's a quick anecdote about 'La Cage aux Folles.'

Greg and I moved to NYC in, what, 2004? And I had a job for a while involving tickets to Broadway shows, and I naturally requisitioned some of those tickets for myself (which was why I got fired, but I didn't care because, hey, I'd seen about 100 shows before they figured it out).

Most of the shows I went to--a revival of Pacific Overtures, a revival of 42nd Street, Avenue Q, revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf--Greg either hated or refused to attend. "I hate this stuff," he'd say, and either grouse all night (if he went) or roll his eyes at my excitement (if I went without him). Then I hoodwinked him into going to see the 2006 revival of 'La Cage.'

Greg loved it. And he not only loved it: he suddenly understood musical theatre. I ended up requisitioning two tickets for 'La Cage' again, just to make Greg happy. And then again, because he wanted to take friends. All told, Greg and I saw the show four times.

The fun part about seeing a single live show several times is that you can watch it evolve. We saw many different versions of the same show, and were able to pick out the subtle differences in line-reading and performance. And then there was a cast change. Robert Goulet, near the end of his life, stepped in to play the role of Georges when [the guy who played the snippy butler in 'The Nanny,' who was apparently an asshole during the 'La Cage' production] bowed out. Goulet's voice was still a thing of wonder, but his body was a thing of glass--every time he moved, we were afraid he'd break a hip. As he dance during the 'Song on the Sand' number, Greg and I clutched hands and held our breath.

A friend and her then-husband were with us when we saw the Goulet performance. The friend and her plus/minus one spent the entire performance on the edge of their seat, waiting for Goulet's catheter to fall out of his pants, I think. They bought us a Playbill program, autographed by the entire cast. "We could tell this is an important show to you guys," our friend told us when presenting us with the present.

It wasn't important, really, the show. I didn't think it was important anyway. Some of the jokes are flat, the songs are hit-and-miss, the plot's hokey. But as the year's go on, and Greg finds more and more shows to like, and I think about the show's history, I realize my friend and her then-husband were right: It is an important show.

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