In this the second installment of my mini-blog series about La Cage aux Folles, the change from Summer to Autumn brought about some changes to the cast, with the departure of Nick Adams (who went on to star in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, an equally fantastic show that will be discussed in a future blog) and Veanne Cox and the arrival of Matt Anctil and Allyce Beasley, who brought their own unique style to the characters. Autumn is also when the new Broadway season traditionally starts, kicked off with the Broadway on Broadway concert and the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA) Flea Market and Grand Auction.
For those who don’t know, Broadway on Broadway is a free concert that takes place mid-September in the heart of Times Square, where a multitude of shows, both current and upcoming perform a song or a medley of songs. It is the only other event when traffic is cordoned off for several blocks for a specific period of time to allow a multitude of people to gather (the other time, of course is on New Year’s Eve) and just like New Year’s Eve, many hardcore theater fans camp out hours beforehand (some stay in Times Square overnight) to secure a prime viewing spot. While I am an ardent theatergoer, I’m not *that* dedicated to wait overnight in Times Square, though I do know friends who do, and I usually find them early in the morning and meet up with them then. The concert formally started around noon, with sound check starting roughly an hour beforehand.
Kelsey Grammer was the host of the 2010 Broadway on Broadway concert, which featured performances from the nearly all the shows that were running at the time: some that have since closed (Million Dollar Quartet, Promises, Promises, Billy Elliot, In the Heights, Memphis, Fela!, Addams Family, Elf,, Next To Normal, American Idiot, West Side Story and Rain), others that are still running (The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Mamma Mia!, Wicked and Rock of Ages) Representing La Cage (aside from Kelsey Grammer hosting) were the Cagelles – Matt Anctil, Logan Keslar, Nicholas Cunningham, Yurel Echezarreta, Sean Patrick Doyle and Terry Lavell – singing “We Are What We Are” to an appreciative audience.
As I had in the summer, I was once again a quasi-regular visitor to the Longacre Theater, which included sitting in the expensive-but-worth-it cabaret seats, seats in the front orchestra, as well as in the balcony. I do believe I must have sat in every section at the Longacre, and I will attest that there is not a bad seat in that house. It was also in the fall I had the opportunity to see the understudies go on and bring their own spin to the roles they were covering; most notably it was during the fall I got the chance to see Chris Hoch, who understudied for both Albin and Georges (in addition to his regular role as Francis, the put-upon stage manager at the club), as Albin and Georges on two separate occasions [at which time, the role of Francis was played with great gusto by Dale Hensley] – he played both roles expertly, though I did prefer his take as Georges over his go as Albin (though of course this basis stems from the fact that I adore Douglas Hodge as Albin).
The next big Broadway event of the fall was the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS [BC/EFA] Flea Market and Grand Auction [henceforth called “the Auction”], or (as many of my theater-obsessed friends call the event), “Broadway Christmas”. I tend to think of that day, which usually falls on the last Sunday in September, as Broadway Heaven on Earth Day – a day when one can find and buy prop and costume pieces (often autographed), old playbills and posters from shows present and past, CDs and other odds and ends; there is also the Grand Auction, where once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as walk-on roles, tickets and passes to opening night performances, and rare one-of-a-kind items are auctioned to the highest bidder. As avid a theater fan as I am, most of those lots are well out of my price range, and I never stick around to watch the Grand Auction; more times than not, my focus at the Auction is the TDF Raffle table (which I have mentioned several times in previous blogs). In the decade I have been attending the Auction, I have been remarkably lucky in winning tickets (each winning ticket yields a pair of complementary tickets, often orchestra seats, to currently running Broadway and off-Broadway shows), though as lucky as I usually am, I did not win any La Cage tickets, which limited my amounts of times going to see the shows [as I essentially had “free” tickets to others shows in the fall. Nevertheless, I did attend see La Cage many times as I could, usually obtaining my tickets at TKTS.
It was also at the Auction where I formally (and finally) met “Lili Whiteass” (aka swing Todd Lattimore) – the sassy door girl greeting (and playfully insulting) theatergoers as they arrived at the Longacre, then warming up the audience with a hilarious pre show act. I had not seen her until then due to the fact that during the times I had seen the show in the summer, Todd was often in the show, filling in for Nick Cunningham as Hannah, one of the Cagelles, and would be unable to go on as Lili Whiteass. Thankfully, throughout the fall, winter and spring I was able to see and chat with Lili on a semi-regular basis.
It was inevitable that there would be an official cast recording for La Cage, and with the release of the cast recording comes the obligatory CD signing at Barnes & Noble, which happened on October 14th at the [now closed] store near Lincoln Center. As per my usual tactic, I got there early and settled myself to be first in line – in addition to the CD signing, there would be a question and answer session with Douglas Hodge and Kelsey Grammer (questions that were submitted by those attending the signing), and a performance by the Cagelles – the lineup this instance consisted of Matt Anctil, Logan Keslar, Yurel Echezarreta, Sean Patrick Doyle and Terry Lavell. As an added bonus, there was a special guest appearance from Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book for La Cage; it was during the question and answer session wherein he announced his involvement in Newsies and Kinky Boots, both musicals that are currently running on Broadway (as one of the questions directed at him asked what his next projects were to be).
As the questions were submitted by those in attendance, I was slightly annoyed that most of the questions were not about the show at all, and were more about Kelsey Grammer’s experiences during Frasier, or were about the then rumor that Kelsey was to play Albin later on in the show’s run (there had already been confirmation that this was not to happen, yet the question was still asked – several times). Happily, the question that I had written (and was probably the only question that was about the show itself) was read out – my question had asked both Doug and Kelsey how they interpreted their roles and the relationship between the two characters – for the life of me, I can’t recall what their exact response was, but I do remember the question was answered thoroughly and thoughtfully. After the question and answer session, the aforementioned Cagelles took to the stage to sing (once again) “We Are What We Are”, which was fantastically performed.
After the performance, the CD signing portion of the event commenced – a good number of the cast were there, all whom sat in a row, with a designated spot to sign in the booklet. By this time, most of the cast recognized me on sight [it would be months later when they would address me at the stage door by name], and they were all glad to see me – I recall Todd Lattimore remarking to Harvey Fierstein that I was one of the “super fans” [having seen the show by then at least a dozen times], which was a sweet thing for him to say.
The next CD signing event was on November 4th at the 5th Avenue Lord & Taylor, where a special makeup kit inspired by the show was being sold (sadly, mascara was not included in the makeup kit). Only Doug and Kelsey would be at this CD signing, so naturally I got to the store early and hung around until they arrived; for whatever reason they were late in arriving [the CD signing was to have started at 12:30 pm, and they had arrived roughly an hour later]. Nevertheless, they were both cheerful in greeting those who had waited to get their CDs signed (a free CD was given with every $50 store purchase). It was lovely to see the natural rapport they had with one another off stage, which further enhanced their rapport onstage. It was also during this CD signing that I had the opportunity to get a photo with both Doug and Kelsey [for obvious reasons Kelsey never, or at least rarely ever, posed for photos at the stage door] – when I had asked if I could take a photo with both of them, Kelsey had quipped, “Don’t you have one already?” to which I immediately responded “Not with both of you together”; with much mirth, I got my photo.
The days were getting shorter and the weather turning colder, yet I still waited at the stage door, and eventually started to take friends to see the show, and I also started to strike up conversations with those also waiting at the stage door – many of whom were surprised and impressed at the number of times I had seen the show. Also, stated earlier, the cast were noticing my presence at the stage door [as I was more times than not able to secure a spot right at the front of the barricades, usually to the right of the stage door area] – I do recall A.J. Shively keeping track (as best as he could) of the number of times I had seen the show (I always waited at the stage door).
The next installment will cover the winter months, including the time I got a backstage tour [twice!], how I spent my birthday, as well as the pinnacle of my quasi-fixation with La Cage: watching all the weekend performances, which coincided with the departure of Doug, Kelsey, Robin De Jesus and Fred Applegate., and the (unintended) drama surrounding their successors.
To be continued…