As Jungle Atlanta puts finishing touches on its re-modeling, the popular gay bar will turn into a Parisian nightclub – at least for two upcoming weekends. “Birds of a Feather,” a re-imagining of the gay French classic “La Cage Aux Folles,” opens Friday, Nov. 23.
Originally a 1973 play about the chaos that ensues when a young man brings his fiancée’s conservative parents home to meet his bar-owner father and his father’s gay lover, “La Cage” became a 1978 film, which bore two sequels. It spawned a 1983 Broadway musical, penned by Harvey Fierstein, as well as the 1996 film “The Birdcage” with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
Director Tony Smithey is taking some liberties with his premise. In his take, which is set in Atlanta, a young couple have to deal with one’s straight parents and the other’s gay parents while on college break during the Christmas season.
“We have also added a few characters,” he says.
Besides directing, Smithey also has dual roles, as Allen and Alannah, both a male and female character. He has been in Atlanta for two and a half years now and moved from Chattanooga, where he had a dinner theater for a few decades called Encore. He laments the loss of dinner theater, but hopes this event can help move it back in the right direction.
“With the Internet, and more film, the vehicle went by the wayside,” he says. “The Shakespeare Tavern is one of the only places I know that does that, but they serve before.”
When purchasing tickets, patrons will be allowed to choose their dinner entrees, which will be brought out as the show opens. The main room of the Jungle is being converted into the nightclub of the play and the food is catered by Mother’s Finest.
“Birds of a Feather” is presented by City of the South, Smithey’s organization that has staged “Cabaret” and “Lesbian Vampires of Sodom” at Jungle over the last few years, as well as productions such as “Driving Miss Daisy” and “The King and I” at other area locations.
“The shows we did at the Jungle were successful, so that made it easier approaching Jungle about doing this one,” he says.
Ahead of their time in many ways, the male characters in “La Cage Aux Folles” want to get married. Smithey feels the work is completely relevant for today’s audiences, since it deals with issues that are timely and important.
Richard Cherskov, managing owner of Jungle Atlanta, was only getting his feet wet at the club when City of the South staged “Cabaret” but is very excited about this.
“This is the kind of programming we are excited to be able to offer,” he says.
Cherskov hopes the remodeling at Jungle will be done by the beginning of 2013, which will allow more opportunities to do similar extracurricular events next year.
A portion of the proceeds from “Birds of a Feather” will go to the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, which benefits kids.