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With a book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman, La Cage aux Folles is a thought-provoking story about homosexuality and tolerance; originally a French play written by Jean Poiret in 1973, a movie version was released in 1978, and the story was eventually Americanized as the 1996 comedy film The Birdcage. This entry concerns the American musical adaptation, which had its first production on Broadway in 1983.
The story centers around a gay couple, Georges and Albin. Georges is the manager of a nightclub, "La Cage Aux Folles," featuring drag acts -- including Albin as Zaza. Georges has a son, Jean-Michel, who was conceived during a past liaison with a woman named Sybil; Jean-Michel has become engaged to a woman named Anne Dindon. But Anne's father is the head of the "Tradition, Family and Morality Party," which wants to close the local drag establishments, so when Anne's parents wish to meet Jean-Michel's parents, Georges tries to persuade Albin to tone it down, and at first Albin plays along, but it turns out he just can't play it straight. So Sybil is to take the place of Albin for a dinner with Anne's family, but when she's late, Albin decides to dress in drag for the dinner...
The show is best known for its ground-breaking presentation of a happy established gay couple, and for its proud message of tolerance (though ironically, for fear of offending any in the audience who disagree with the point of the movie, the couple never kisses or does anything more). Georges and Albin are shown to be a generous, loving couple capable of caring for a child and for one another. It has been a success on Broadway (and recently in the West End) and the song "I Am What I Am" has become a rallying cry of the Gay Pride movement.
Tropes featured include:
- Breakaway Pop Hit: The song "I Am What I Am" was a disco hit that is still popular to this day.
- Camp Gay / Transsexual
- Disguised in Drag
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Albin sings this in "I Am What I Am".
- I Am What I Am: The trope namer
- Last Chorus Slow-Down: The title song, "Masculinity", and "The Best of Times".
- Screen to Stage Adaptation
- Sleep Mask: Albin wears one in the sequel movie.
- Small Start Big Finish: "I Am What I Am".
- Strawman Political: Simon Charrier