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'La Cage aux Folles' at OSF

Confusion and hilarity ensue when the straight son of a gay nightclub owner brings his fiancee's ultraconservative parents home for dinner in "La Cage aux Folles," a comedy based on French playwright Jean Poiret's 1973 play. A concert reading of "La Cage" will be presented at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's annual AIDS/HIV fundraiser, the Daedalus Project. The reading is set for 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22, in the Angus Bowmer Theatre on the OSF campus, 15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland.

The story centers around young Jean-Michel (Christopher Livingston), whose father, Georges (David Kelly), lives with his gay lover — and star attraction — Albin (Anthony Heald) above a night spot that caters to drag artists and transsexuals.

The play was adapted as a musical with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and opened in 1983 on Broadway. It received nine Tony nominations and won six. The 2010 Broadway revival was nominated for 11 Tony Awards. In 1996, "La Cage" was adapted into a screenplay by Elaine May and filmed as "The Birdcage," starring Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane and Dianne Wiest.

Daniel Gary Busby (who is conducting OSF's orchestra for "The Pirates of Penzance") directs the play reading.

"What makes this piece so endearing is that the characters are so human," he says in an OSF press release. "The fact that Georges and Albin are a male couple and they work in showbiz is not central to the essence of the story. They could easily be shopkeepers in middle America. The backdrop of the gender-bending cabaret setting allows for color, wit and humor, and they are every bit as human as any long-married couple. Albin, the more dramatic of the pair, is also the heart of the home. He is the lens through which we can see ourselves ... from a certain amount of self-loathing in 'A Little More Mascara' to the realization that he is enough being who he is in 'I Am What I Am' ...

"In the early '80s when homophobia was rampant ... and the AIDS pandemic was careening out of control ... the team of Fierstein, Herman and Laurents (playwright and director Arthur Laurents) did something remarkable. They made gay men, drag queens and showbiz folk normal. (It's) a gay rights piece of agitprop disguised as a charming, colorful, great-looking musical comedy."

OSF's performance will feature music, song, dance and costumes.

OSF actor Cristofer Jean says he wanted to produce "La Cage" for a number of reasons.

"It is difficult to assess the heroic efforts of the drag world and transsexuals in response to the pandemic of AIDS," Jean says in a press release. "The response ... continues to be gargantuan in terms of fundraising — to assay living costs, provide care and drugs to those living with the disease and to further the efforts of researchers in the ongoing struggle to find a cure ... I like to think of 'La Cage aux Folles' as not only a tribute to gay marriage and gay parenting ... but as a celebratory tribute to lives lost, lives lived and ongoing trials and tribulations with a disease that is still not cured among the demi-mondes of drag artists and transsexuals everywhere."

OSF's Daedalus Project was established in 1987. It was named after the story of Daedalus from Greek mythology.

Tickets cost $20 and are available at www.osfashland.org or by calling the box office at 541-482-4331 or 800-219-8161.

The Daedalus Project's evening variety show will be held at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22 on the Elizabethan Stage. Tickets cost $30 or $35 and are available at www.osfashland.org.