On February 14, 1973, the day after the premiere of La Cage aux folles, morale was at its lowest backstage at the Théâtre du Palais Royal. The few critics and professionals who attended the performance obviously did not appreciate this burlesque treatment of homosexuality. In the days that followed, rentals remained so low that the possibility of stopping at the end of the 30 performances provided for by contract was considered.
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Three weeks later, to everyone's amazement, the trend reversed. Word of mouth from the public made the difference. The beginning of a triumph that will continue for 2,000 nights in a row. Spectators regularly return to applaud a show that evolves according to the mood of Jean Poiret and Michel Serrault.
They often engage in delirious improvisations for fun. The play sometimes lasts half an hour longer. One day, at the end of an argument, Serrault decided not to return to Poiret, as the situation foresaw. He settles in a corner of the set and says that this time, it's too much, he's leaving! His companion, who has a hard time holding back his laughter, will try everything to bring him to reason, and especially at home. In the packed room, it's delusional.
The idea was born one evening in 1968, at the Comédie des Champs-Élysées. Jean Poiret attends a performance of an English play, L'Escalier. Taking refuge in a squalid hair salon, Paul Meurisse and Daniel Ivernel argue violently. Poiret then remembers this particularly effeminate couple of antique dealers that he played with Michel Serrault, in their early days, in a sketch entitled LesDeux Hortenses. They become Alban and Zaza Napoli, and will evolve behind the scenes of a cabaret of transformists like Chez Michou and La Grande Eugène, which have just opened their doors.
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The adventure of LaCage aux folles will continue in the cinema, three times, then on Broadway, in a musical. It is a great pleasure to see the 1978 film followed by the documentary Merci, Zaza. The crazy story of "La Cage aux Folles" (22:45 p.m.) before savoring the play (23:50 p.m.). Jean Poiret will give his agreement, but decline the offer to participate in the adaptations. He prefers to devote himself to other projects. Legend has it that in 1991, a few months before his death, he had considered a revival, with Serrault, so that the play could be shot for television, in its entirety. The preserved images are limited, alas, to a few extracts from reports and the scene of the biscotte. A cult moment.