La Cage and Torch Song Trilogy.....
Similar, but Different
La Cage, like many musicals, approaches gay themes humorously. TST, a drama, handles gay themes more seriously. In TST we see the sad life of drag queens, revealed in Arnold's opening monologue.
"There are easier things in this life than being a drag queen.
But, I ain't got no choice."
In La Cage, the queens are glamorous and are proud of their position in life.
"We are what we are...
We love how it feels, putting on heels, causing confusion."
We can see, however, some feelings of inadequacy in Albin. These feelings are combatted by Georges love for Albin, making him feel more accepted than Arnold in TST.
In TST, we see the harsh realities of gay life, such as promiscuous sex and overt prejudice. In this play, Fierstein brings to light some truths associated with being gay in the 80's in New York that we don't see in La Cage. Fierstein's musical centers on the more "fluffy", flamboyant gay life, where prejudice and sex play small roles. The only prejudice we see in La Cage comes form Anne's parents, and they overcome their uneasy feelings by the end of the musical. In TST, we see Alan die at the hands of gay-bashers, and Arnold's happiness is left unresolved.
Both shows have parental figures, but in TST, David is raised by a single gay father, and in La Cage, Jean-Michel is raised by a gay man and his partner. David deals with this form of "family" very well, as he is gay and sees Arnold as a role model.
David: "I stay with you because I want to. I really like living with you. I even like the way you try to mother me...You make me feel like I got a home. And a bunch of other assorted mushy stuff I don't want to get into here."
Jean-Michel, on the other hand, is straight, and is forced to make excuses for his father's lifestyle. He even goes so far as to create a traditional family image, with Albin playing a heterosexual mother to ensure the approval of his fiancee's parents.
Jean-Michel: "Listen carefully. For the next twenty-four hours, there will be people here of a lifestyle not at all like yours. I beg you, for the next twenty-four hours to dispense with everything that brings you personal joy and everything you personally take pride in. My future depends on it."
Arnold's mother in TST does not necessarily approve of her son's lifestyle, but she remains, in her own way, supportive. Arnold understands her and her ways, but does not hide his life from her to protect her. He is brutally honest with her and demands her respect. Although they share many tense moments in the play, we are given the impression that Arnold's mother truly cares about her son and his welfare. She loves him.
Ma: "You think you walk into a room, say, 'Hi Dad, I'm queer,' and that's that? You think that's what we brought you into the world for? Believe me, if I'd known I wouldn't have bothered. God should tear out my tongue, I should talk to my child this way. Arnold, you're my son, you're a good person, a sensitive person with a heart, kennohorrah, like your father, and I try to love you for that and forget this."
Love and Relationships
In TST, all of Arnold's relationships are tumultuous. They either end in tragedy, as with Alan's death, or are characterized by infidelity and a lack of trust. Ed's idea of love is quite different from that of Arnold's, which prevents them from sharing an equally gratifying relationship.
Ed: "That was one of the things that made me love you: that I could fantasize about anything..."
Arnold: "To me, a fantasy is a Genie or a magic lamp, something impossible that you wouldn't really want even if you could have it. Our airplane, our island, our child...they weren't fantasies. They were possibilities."
Contrastingly, in La Cage, Albin and Georges enjoy a healthy homosexual relationship. They work together as a couple and are willing to make life the best for each other. We see this in their duet, "With You on My Arm," when Georges pledges to Albin,
"Each time I face a morning that's boring and bland, with you it looks good."
In both shows, heterosexual relationships are not seen as idealistic. In TST, Laurel and Ed are in an unhappy marriage. They never share moments like Arnold and Alan, and seem to be utterly unhappy in their situation. In La Cage, Georges relationship with Jean-Michel's mother never worked out. The Dindon's marriage is not glorified over that of the homosexual relationship between Georges and Albin.