The Broadway revival of the 1983 musical “La Cage aux Folles,” starring Kelsey Grammer, opened to rave reviews this week, only to encounter what could be a viral storm with news of the star’s online promo for the conservative-oriented RightNetwork.
As Grammer puts it in the promo for the website, which launches this summer, “There’s wrong and there’s right. RightNetwork: All that’s right with the world.” The website features photos of Newt Gingrich and other Republicans who did not advocate for same-sex marriage and gays in the military.
What’s wrong, according to a long chain of comments in the TalkinBroadway.com chat room, is that Grammer plays a gay character in “La Cage,” the first Broadway tuner to put a same-sex couple centerstage, while making himself the face of a politically conservative news org, which opposes rights for same-sex unions.
Grammer’s website promo plays up the network’s entertainment content, offering jokes about everything from “bailouts for billionaires” and “grape-flavored vodka” to “Grown-man tickle fights? That’s definitely not right.”
Village Voice reviewer Michael Feingold joined the chat room foray, dismissing any talk of a “La Cage” boycott: “It seems to me that the contradiction here is Kelsey Grammer’s problem and nobody else’s: If he wants to kiss a man passionately onstage eight times a week … and then wants to become a spokesman for a political group that includes many who are violently against gay marriage — why should that worry anyone who comes to ‘La Cage’ and enjoys what it says?”
Feingold went on to write: “Maybe someday Grammer will figure out who he is and how his work relates to what he believes. Or maybe he’ll just embrace the contradiction, like Lillian Hellman — alifelong socialist who lived expensively and did ads for Blackglama mink. People who expect showbiz figures to be ethical role models are barking up the wrong tree.”
“La Cage aux Folles” has a history of ruffling the feathers of some gay theatergoers, despite having been the work of three gay creatives: director Arthur Laurents, songwriter Jerry Herman and book writer Harvey Fierstein. In 1983, at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, activists wanted an edgier, more political show.
“If we gave them what they wanted,” Laurents said at the time. “It would close in six weeks.”
Late in the show’s four-year run, when its producers switched the “Cage” ad campaign from a transvestite to the show’s young hetero couple, the AIDS advocacy group Act-Up protested the ad, which was promptly dropped.