The musical La Cage aux Folles has always proudly proclaimed it is what it is, and right now what it is with Uptown Players is dripping with glamor, sass, and emotion.
Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein's 1983 musicalization of Jean Poiret's French play (which later became a film and its Americanized counterpart, The Birdcage) is set in a St. Tropez drag club.
Here, under the direction of Cheryl Denson, the Kalita Humphreys Theater rises to the spangled occasion with a stage that practically explodes with sequins, feathers, and bugle beads, along with lighting from Amanda West that drenches each scene in rich jewel tones.
The sets and costumes are rented from the 2010 Broadway revival — both were Tony nominated, by the way. Tim Shortall's sets have been adapted by Rodney Dobbs, while Matthew Wright's costumes were tweaked by Suzi Cranford. The makeup and wigs, however, are all designed by Michael Moore, and his work more than matches the Broadway caliber of its surroundings.
It's no small task to prep the performers of this show, which features not only a leggy chorus of "Cagelles" (Cale Richards, Trevor Wright, Sammy Swim, Terry G. Snyder, Kyle Fleig, and Michael Gomez) but also the diva herself, Zaza.
Mikey Abrams plays the dramatic drag queen, who at home is known as Albin but onstage commands the spotlight as the club's star attraction. The club is owned by Georges, Albin's partner of more than 20 years, and together they have raised Georges' son Jean-Michel, begat from a one-night stand propelled by curiosity.
Jean-Michel (a terrific Seth Womack) is home with big news: He's getting married, but his lady love's father is a politician on a morality crusade. Oh, and the in-laws are coming for a visit.
This puts Georges in a bind, as it means he must "butch up" his apartment above the club and break the news to Albin that there is no place in a "traditional" family for him. As Georges, Bob Hess turns in his most nuanced performance yet, relying on straight-man comedy amid the chaos swirling around him, but always leading with warmth and poignancy. Abrams is the confident (though not always on pitch) leader of that chaos, shadowed closely by Alex B. Heika as the couple's showbiz-enamored maid.
As flashy as the production numbers are (choreographed by Mikey Sylvester and executed, if not with precision than with enthusiasm, by the Cagelles), the most memorable moments end up being those between Hess and Abrams. Though several decades old, the show's central themes of love and acceptance still shine through.
Uptown Players' production of La Cage aux Folles runs at the Kalita Humphreys Theater through July 30.