The revival of La Cage Aux Folles at the Longacre is glorious. The production, an import from the Menier Chocolate Factory in London, is scaled back, emphasizing the intimate nature of the story. But the real charm is watching the superb Douglas Hodge as Albin, alias Zaza, a singular cabaret diva, accompanied by a just-right Kelsey Grammer as the devoted Georges.
"I Am What I Am" isn't just Zaza's theme song; it should be the banner across the theater: I am what I am - and what I am, is a big, brassy hit!
The revival is beloved for its 20-year love story between Albin and Georges, beautifully captured in "Song on the Sand." When their young son Jean-Michel (A. J. Shively) announces he's going to marry the daughter (Elena Shaddow) of M. Dindon, a right-wing politician (Fred Applegate), they fret.
It gets worse: Jean-Michel doesn't want Albin to meet his prospective in-laws, fearing his feminine ways will end the nuptials. So he asks his father, Georges, to explain. He does -- and the expected emotional fireworks ensue. One of the enduring lessons of La Cage is its strong social message -- family comes in all forms. Those who disdain gay marriage aren't trumpeting family values; they are practicing bigotry. The two men have a happier union than the Dindons, which underscores the point.
La Cage is bold, racy entertainment, thanks to the Cagelles, who sing and dance beautifully, and a wonderfully campy, but tender script, courtesy of Harvey Fierstein's zippy book. In addition to the Cagelles, Robin De Jesus' turn as Jacob, the maid, and Christine Andreas' stylish Jacqueline, are sheer delights. Jerry Herman's music and lyrics are lush, smart and funny, and Matthew Wright's costumes bring it home. La Cage is a winner from the moment the curtain rises.
So is Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson -- but for completely different reasons. The high-voltage show now at the Public Theater, led by Benjamin Walker as Andrew Jackson, is 90 minutes of pounding entertainment. Walker is loaded with physical charisma and gives a terrifically charged performance.
He is joined by a talented cast, including Michael Dunn, Jeff Hiller, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and Ben Steinfeld, who portray various important political figures, from Henry Clay to James Monroe. All relate key events from the 1820s and 1830s with humor and political smarts. Maria Elena Ramirez plays Jackson's long-suffering wife with heart.
Jackson was a divisive figure, which adds to the theatricality. He birthed the Democratic Party, was a raging populist and despised Eastern elites. While he won public acclaim for his exploits on the battlefield, he was also responsible for the greatest land grab in American history. The price: the resettling and death of thousands of Native Americans.
Several books have recently been published about our seventh president, but only Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson romps through history with a rock score and comic sensibility. Alex Timbers has directed the show, which is a fast-moving education, with panache.
Strindberg, by contrast, is weighty, but never easy. The 19th-century dramatist specialized in complicated human relationships -- and he's most at home when his characters rage against each other. Love, sex and commitment are complicated notions. And in Creditors, now at BAM's Harvey Theater, the emotional debts are crushing.
The play, written during one of Strindberg's three nasty divorces, is an ode to marital unhappiness and mistrust. It's also electric, thanks to gripping performances by Anna Chancellor as the temptress Tekla, Tom Burke as Adolph, her weak, artistic husband, and Owen Teale as Gustav, her angry former spouse. They hurl accusations at each other with lightning speed, literally throwing themselves around the stage in a frenzy of emotion.
David Greig has adapted the play with an eye toward its darkly humorous moments. Strindberg was a master at mining hypocrisy and doubt; while his misogyny is well known, director Alan Rickman has extracted Creditors' wisdom and heartache with surgical precision.
The characters are honest and contradictory. Independent Tekla is enamored of youth; she loves Adolph, but is unnerved by his jealousy and obsessions. Gustav, chafing at his loss of Tekla, longs for revenge. Locked in battle, their travails are riveting -- a reminder that there are no victors on the marital front.