The touring company of the musical hit "La Cage aux Folles" that's currently visiting the Warner Theatre is, well, kind of a drag.
Based on the play and movie, this 1984 musical adaptation revolves dizzily around the gay goings-on at a French nightclub specializing in gender-blender illusions and kick lines.
But the current troupe of performers -- headed by Harvey Evans as Albin, whose cross-dressing has made him a neighborhood institution, and Larry Kert as La Cage owner Georges, Albin's somewhat straighter-appearing lover -- might have come straight from "Oklahoma!" Hampered further by sub-dinner-theater quality sets and lighting, this is a merely adequate facsimile of Broadway's mousse dessert, which is still playing at the Palace Theatre.
The first act laboriously introduces us to the characters and the smidgen of a plot, which calls for Georges and Albin to cover up their life style because Georges' son is getting married to the daughter of a conservative politician. Harvey Fierstein's sweetly corny book, which won one of the show's six Tony awards, is modeled after any number of mid-'50s musicals. Still, it is subversive in its own gentle way -- by evening's end, the audience is cheering the antireactionary sentiments of the characters.
The show has been downscaled and restaged slightly for the road, and the reworking unfortunately included curtailing the show-stopper, "I Am What I Am"; it is no longer played to the audience, and so loses nearly all of its emotional weight. The second act plays markedly better, mainly because it dissolves swiftly into out-and-out silliness.
As Albin, Harvey Evans resembles Barbara Cartland, Gertrude Stein, Ginger Rogers and Truman Capote at various stages of the evening, and his musical metamorphosis at the makeup table remains a wonderful bit of staging. Larry Kert struggles with the less flashy role of Georges, makes a short-lived attempt at a French accent and settles for playing him as a sitcom father.
As always, the sequined, beaded and befeathered Les Cagelles dancers are the reason to see the show (two of eight are women, and you'll be hard-pressed to pick them out). And the athletically outrageous dance numbers by Scott Salmon are still highly amusing. Though the orchestrations stick too close to the metronome (they're sung that way, too), Jerry Herman's tunes -- which include "Song on the Sand" and "The Best of Times," both of which would fit without alteration into any other Herman musical -- prove themselves indelible and indestructible. movieag La Cage aux Folles, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Harvey Fierstein. Directed by Arthur Laurents; choreography, Scott Salmon; settings, David Mitchell; lighting, Jules Fisher; costumes, Theoni V. Aldredge. With Patricia Arnell, Kevin Backstrom, Bob Carroll, Wade Collings, Joyce Dara, Diana Lynne Drew, Harvey Evans, Kerry Finn, Kent Gash, Peter Gunther, Keith Keen, Larry Kert, Jim Kirby, Frank J. Maio, Robin Manning, Earl Dwayne Minfield, Dan O'Grady, Wendy Oliver, Scott Sigler, Sheila Smith, Melodie Wolford, Carmen Yurich. At the Warner Theatre through Nov. 1.