By Jim Gladstone
La Cage Aux Folles has been a strangely tenacious pop cultural presence over the past 40 years. Its plot and characters were introduced in a 1973 French play, adapted for film versions in both French and English (The Birdcage) and transformed into a musical (book by Harvey Fierstein; music and lyrics by Jerry Herman) that debuted on Broadway in 1983 where it has since been revived twice: The show won a Tony award for Best Musical and two for Best Revival of a Musical (both in 2004 and 2010).
A new production at San Francisco Playhouse, which opened Wednesday night, is at least the third local mounting of La Cagein the past year. It’s a smartly considered, relatively mellow version that puts more emphasis on charm than farce, tamping down the frenzied, door-slamming, heels-akimbo antics that can—and often do—turn La Cage into a sort of noisy Keystone Cops with lip gloss and weaves.