Kelsey Grammer Is Straight-Washing La Cage aux Folles. Is That So Terrible?

This is an excellent-albeit-condensed profile of Kelsey Grammer, the raging Republican (but foe of gay marriage bans), who co-stars in Broadway’s new La Cage aux Folles. Having been married three times, and fathered a daughter out of wedlock, the actor is the last person to speak about some institution worth protecting, so it’s nice to hear he’s not doing it. What Grammer is doing, however, is straight-washing La Cage, and we’re not sure how we feel about that.

Grammer tells New York‘s Adam Sternbergh the play is just “a great story about any couple. They all have the same dynamic: a heterosexual relationship, a homosexual relationship, a man-with-dogs relationship. There are universal events that take place: the differences, the angers, the insecurities, the histrionics. You would call it, I guess, a male-female dynamic. This just happens to be two boys. … In a sense, these two characters end up reflecting a far more traditional picture of Mom and Dad than most of us ever had. It’s almost Walton-esque.”

He was doing something similar on Friday’s Today show, insisting the musical — for the unfamiliar, see The Birdcage — is just “a story about a family.”

In the one sense, yes, it is! But also: It’s a story about a very un-tra-di-tion-al family. One that’s very gay. Originally a French play, La Cage‘s entire reason for being is to bounce liberal gay norms off polite conservative society; there just happens to be this “family” archetype Grammer speaks of involved.

As the star, Grammer is also the Broadway show’s ambassador. And to make the $16.5 million prject a fiscal success, it needs to sell tickets. Which might involve playing down the outrageous gay antics, and playing up how orchestra seats are the perfect way for a family to spend an afternoon. Even with raging drag numbers before intermission.

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  • Ian

    Well, La Cage aux Folles has been around since the ’70’s: the original and wonderful French film, the horrible, but successful American remake and the Broadway musical. It’s hard to conceive anybody not being aware that the story centers on a Gay Male relationship. It’s a given it is about a non-traditional family and he’s playing up the universality of love and family relationships to appeal to as large an audience as possible.

  • adman

    I don’t care what straight people think about me and my relationships, I just don’t care. Kelsey can reprocess this tour-de-force in the most asinine ways possible, he’ll always be a straight guy with opinions that don’t really matter to me.

  • alan brickman

    Kelsey Grammer is straight?….WTF??!!

  • adman

    @alan brickman: LOL, I should have straight straight presenting? something to that effect…

  • Adam

    I agree with Ian. Yes, there are drag queens and double- and triple-entendres in this show, but there are also themes here about love and being true to yourself that apply to straight people, too. If Kelsey wants to market this as “you don’t have to be gay to enjoy this show,” I can’t really disagree.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    Kelsey Grammer Is Straight-Washing La Cage aux Folles. Is That So Terrible?

    Yes. Because he is, as Queerty pointed out, and avowed Republican/conservative. He also considers Ann Coulter his best friend, and is an Evangelical Christian. Just because he’s an actor, doesn’t mean he gives two shits about us.

  • David

    I think Grammer is simply explaining how he relates to the characters. He sees them as a regular couple.

    Ordinarily, that sort of explanation would be enough to turn me off to his presentation of the characters, but he did a great job of turning his straight character of Fraser into one of the gayest characters ever presented on television. So I’d give him some slack here.

  • The Other Tom

    The things you’re saying he says that allegedly constitute “straight washing” La Cage are exactly the same things that my very liberal atheist left wing father said to me and several of my friends about what the show is about before we all saw it, so I think that’s a perfectly reasonable way to view it.

  • Charlie

    Relax peeps, he’s reading the lines the way they were written, and they are plenty gay.. Hi character is supposed to be less flaming and nearly straight – but there is no denying he is gay ever…he is the proverbial “straight acting” so many of us pretend we want

  • shrimpton "princess" johnson

    fake controversies!
    this site would be more respected if it respected the intelligence of its potential audience – instead, it panders to the crypto-teabag, “fiscally conservative”, kneejerk fake “angry gay man” in the tackiest, most dishonest and embarrassing manner.
    you guys will be sorry, SOON.

  • hephaestion

    Fake controversy indeed. Kelsey Grammer isn’t “straight-washing.” He’s merely stating the facts. However, if Grammer is buddies with Ann Coulter, he is no friend of gay people.

    I like “The Birdcage” MUCH better than “La Cage aux folles.” Nathan Lane brought that story to life in a way the French film failed to do to an embarrassing degree… and I am normally a HUGE fan of French films.

  • Jon

    He said that the story is “a great story about any couple”. I’m not sure how this turns into “straight-washing”.

    The only thing I would have to say about “La Cage” in 2010 is that I don’t know how relevant the story actually is anymore. In the 70’s it was ahead of it’s time, but by the time they made the crappy Birdcage movie it was severely dated already. Do people still behave like this in 2010? Does anyone know if this new Broadway show is done as a period piece or is it set today?

  • fredo777

    I loved The Birdcage, actually. I enjoyed the original French film, too, though.

  • jeffree

    Half the humor in the original movie was the gay couple trying to play straight. Yes its about liberals versus conservatives, but without the gay theme it wouldnt be so funny.

    Kelsey Grammer is trying to make the story appeal to everyone, because it IS about “family values” but the one family is stlll a gay couple with a str8 son and a gay butler! Plus there was that whole crossdresssing thing, let’s not forget!

    Same story in some ways for Frasier: two fussy nelly “straight” men, one played by DHP who most (? many) people knew was gay long before he came out. Without that subtext (!!) the show didnt have much going for it.

    I hope that the show does well, because stories like that may just open up a mind or two, and just having gay families be seen is a “good thing”.

  • emb

    Kelsey Grammer spoiled himself for me the moment he opened his mouth and revealed his dark and hateful politics (I suspect his “moderation” on the gay thing is a smokescreen). He is a vile, vile man and I wouldn’t pay a dime to see him; I just pretend I’m still ignorant of his politics when I watch “Frasier” reruns, back when he was amusing.

  • Chapeau

    La Cage’s raison d’être … is to poke fun at Conservatives.

  • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

    I can see Grammer’s point, it’s about a play about family that in many ways sees themselves as perfectly-normal from their own p.o.v.. that then undergoes a crisis of confidence about themselves.

    The gripe I have with the premise, espcially in the “Birdcage”-version, is that the real villian and bigot in the screenplay is their brat of a son…not the Senator. He’s portayed as “an innocent”, yet it’s his prejedices and fears that drive the straight-washing of the apartment, the lies, and forces a wedge between Albin and George. Every time it’s on cable, I just want to reach thru the screen and smack him, ” …they’re your parents, a$$-hole!”.

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