Christopher Siebert Comes a Long Way With "La Cage Aux Folles"
During the course of our telephone conversation with Christopher Siebert, who has the flamboyant, star turn of Albin in the touring company of “La Cage Aux Folles,” winding up its Kennedy Center run at the Eisenhower Theater Feb. 12, we told him that he seemed to embody the essence of a Broadway pro.
Specifically, we said, “You’re a Broadway baby.” That means Siebert is never far from a rehearsal, a road trip, an audition, a star turn, a song in his heart in a musical, a night on the stage.
“Yup,” he said. “I believe that’s true.”
Of course, there’s a lot more to Siebert than show biz per se, in the sense that the business, a world which he inhabits as a genuine star, is never far from intersecting with real life, especially with “La Cage Aux Folles,” which first exploded on the Broadway scene in the 1980s. With music by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, who also starred as Albin, it became an instant classic, spawning revivals and even a hit, non-musical film, “The Bird Cage” with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
Siebert was a teen in Minnesota when “La Cage” erupted on the scene. Nevertheless, he is keenly aware of its status and history in Broadway lore and feels closely connected to it on several level.
“That show meant a lot then, and it means a lot more now, in a different way,” he said. “Plus, Harvey has been a great friend of mine. So, there’s almost no way of avoiding it anyway.”
Siebert isn’t just alive in the lights of the Great White Way or on the road. He’s something of a pop culture icon with some of his Broadway roles as well as having starred in the television series, “Two of a Kind,” with The Olsen twins, and you don’t get anymore pop culture than that.
But on Broadway he made his real mark, initially playing in shows full of characters already embedded firmly in the buzz-and-cool minds of several generations of youth culture. He was Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” Rapunzel’s prince as well as the wolf in “Into the Woods” and Sir Dennis Galahad in “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
But Siebert really hit the jackpot when he got the role of Lord Farquaad in “Shrek, the Musical,” for which he was nominated for a Tony Award, an Outer Critics Award Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award and a Drama League Award.
He was playing the stylishly sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” when he got word that there was an opportunity to play Georges the other and much, much less flamboyant member of the couple in a road company of the successful revival of “La Cage.” And who was playing Albin? None other than the frog-voiced Fierstein who had originated the role and written the book for “La Cage.”
“Well, Harvey’s my friend, so in a way, playing Georges to his Albin let me see how the pair functioned as a couple, so it really gave me a heads-up on the role. There’s nobody like Harvey. He’s a true original,” Siebert said. “I don’t think anybody can make their voice go that low. So, I don’t try that much.”
Eventually, George Hamilton, the suavest movie star ever outside of Cary Grant, took over the role of Georges, and Siebert became Albin and his oft-altered ego Za Za. The crowds have come, and they have roared.
“Georges is, I think, fantastic, he gives a presence in the role you don’t often find, and he acts it in a subtle way that makes you understand the relationship between the two men,” Siebert said.
Still, it’s different now.
Watching the show, you can see that how much has happened historically. “You’ve got to remember back in those days, it was primarily about the glamour, the glitter, and gay men who had not come out would come see the show with women dates. We’ve come a long way. I think the show now is more about character, the relationship, the love story. It is about a married couple for all intents and purpose, to the point where Albin has to pretend to be a mother, wig and dresses and all.”
The plot’s emotional underpinnings, as well as those holding the costumes together, resonate differently in the age of the battle over gay marriage.
Siebert himself married his long-time partner Kevin Burrows, an actor and a chef, last Thanksgiving.
We asked him if Burrows cooks at home. “Never,” Siebert quipped. “Except at Thanksgiving. That’s his high holidays.”