Family Ties

''La Cage Aux Folles''' George Hamilton and Christopher Sieber on old Hollywood, gay relationships -- and why the best of times is now

SIEBER: We both did the role of Billy Flynn on Broadway.

HAMILTON: He sang and I, of course, mimed. [Laughs.] The point of it is, we had worked for the same people and the idea of [the national tour of] La Cage Aux Folles came up. I always loved the play. I loved the original movie with Ugo Tognazzi and The Birdcage. I thought it was an extraordinary thing. But then I realized, when I saw the show, that there’s a lot more to it than I had thought. There are lot of nuances and things that I hadn’t really grasped when I’d seen the movie. And they told me that they were going to get a really fine actor to play the other role, which gave me hope because I felt, well, there has got to be one of us. [Laughs.] Chris — talk about humility — came in and actually auditioned. I was at his audition, and when he finished, I walked straight over to the director and said, ”That’s the guy.”

MW: George, you’re mostly known for film acting…

HAMILTON: I got a Screen Actors Guild card back in ’58, which proves it!

SIEBER: It does prove it. You want to set the record straight that you were never on The Love Boat so you can just nip it in the bud?

HAMILTON: Never did Love Boat. I did Dynasty. But people mistake me, you know. They think I was Baywatch

SIEBER: I would have loved to see you on Baywatch.

HAMILTON: — because they know about that eight-pack that I have.

SIEBER: Well it’s a nine-pack now. You added one. [Laughs.]

HAMILTON: The bottom line is that when I knew that Chris was going to do the show, I felt very comfortable because he had already done Georges —

SIEBER: [I played] his part on Broadway. Opposite Harvey Fierstein [as Albin].

HAMILTON: I thought, “Well, this is going to be very interesting to see how he plays the other role.” And truthfully, I depended on Chris because I had no real knowledge of how to play Georges.

SIEBER: We got a relationship going pretty quickly. An actor giving another actor notes is not a cool thing sometimes, but George wanted all the information he could get. And I said, ”Well, if you want to hear, I’m going to tell you how it is.” And I’ve been pretty blunt.

HAMILTON: But you’ve never said anything unkind.

SIEBER: Not yet, not yet. Just wait. [Laughs.]

HAMILTON: The tricky part of this whole deal is that Georges’s part is not written to be funny. An actor coming into Georges’s role gets letdown initially thinking, ”Well, why don’t I get that laugh?” And the truth of the matter is, you’re not supposed to get that laugh.

SIEBER: You’re not supposed to because you’re the straight man. But the part of Georges drives the show.

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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