BWW Interviews: George Hamilton and Christopher Sieber Dish on LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
La Cage Aux Folles danced its way into Toronto in sequined, over the top splendor this past Friday, with two dazzling leading men heading up the cast. George Hamilton stars as Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub that features drag entertainers, while Christopher Sieber is Albin, George’s partner and star of the club’s shows. Sieber joined the touring production of La Cage aux Folles straight off the Broadway run, where he played the role of Georges, making him the only actor in the history of the production to tackle both roles. Hamilton is new to the production, taking over the role that Kelsey Grammar played on Broadway.
After arriving in Toronto, the two men joined me for a hilarious Q&A session that had them explaining how they keep the show fresh, how Sieber ‘burns his babies’ by throwing crazy adlibs at his fellow actors and ended with George Hamilton demonstrating his various ‘gay walks’:
Welcome to Toronto! How has the journey been so far?
CS: It’s been great, we’re thrilled to be here. The Royal Alex is a perfect theatre for our show – 1500 seats is just the right size. Plus we’re happy to be here for six weeks because we can sit down and settle in. This is the end of the road for us, six weeks in Toronto and we wrap a year long tour.
Chris, you’re coming off a Broadway run where you played Georges. Now that you’re playing Albin have you had a chance to consider which role you prefer?
CS: It depends on the day.
Do you sometimes wish you could switch?
CS: There are days where I definitely do. Sometimes I just have to pull up the bootstraps and go. This show takes so much out of you both physically and emotionally, so sometimes it would be nice to wear only three costumes instead of fifteen and ditch the heels. But I do love it. I also haven’t missed many shows which I’m proud of, I think I’ve only missed eight all year, and four were for charity.
How about you George? Could you do Zaza for one night?
GH: I doubt it!
CS: We should do a photoshoot with you as Zaza and me as Georges. Just for fun!
GH: I make a very ugly woman.
CS: I’m not pretty either! I’m ugly!
GH: I’ve actually always wanted to play the character a bit ‘off’. I think that could be fun. After all, it’s hard enough to be a heterosexual playing gay and not having the gay gestures, maybe if I played the character as slightly ‘off center’ it would add to the fun. I have a brother who is gay and he had some very gentile and fine moves, but nothing that was overtly feminine. So when I play Georges I think of him, and try and ensure that my characterization isn’t turned into a parody.
You guys have been touring this show for almost a year, do you find that audience reactions differ greatly between cities?
CS: The thing I’ve learned traveling through the United States is that the people in each city are usually awesome, it’s generally the ‘talking heads’ that give us trouble. There are certain aspects of our show that can be tough – but we have a line at the beginning that says ‘you’ll love us once you get to know us’. I think that’s how we approach each audience as well.
Our show is abrupt and in your face, it can be a bit jarring at first. But by the end of Act 1 we normally have the audience right there with us – and they do fall in love with us once they get to know us. And if we ever have any negativity which is palpable, the entire company uses it as fuel to try even harder to win them over.
With all the bullying going on today, the It Gets Better campaigns and teens committing suicide, do you think the message of this show might resonate even more now than when it was first released?
CS: I think yes and no. Back when it was written it was quite a leap and a risk to put on a show like this. For someone to proclaim ‘I Am What I Am’ was so amazing, but also very brave. I think now the gay issues has fallen a bit more to the wayside, and the central message is more about it being ok to be who you are, WHATEVER that is. So in Albin’s case he’s gay, but he’s also flamboyant and a bit crazy. And he’s proclaiming that is who he is, flamboyantly crazy and you have to accept him that way. There are people who see this show and will burst into tears because they want to be able to make that kind of proclamation themselves. If you’re bullied your entire life you want to be able to just scream to the world ‘well that’s who I am!’ In this show, that’s what we do.