Christine Andreas and David Nathan Perlow stand side by side during the curtain call at the Longacre Theatre eight shows a week, a diminutive Broadway veteran and a lanky newcomer belting out “The Best of Times” with the rest of the company in “La Cage Aux Folles.”
What’s left of summer
But a faded rose?
The best of times is now.
As for tomorrow,
Well, who knows? Who knows? Who knows?”
“La Cage Aux Folles” is just that for the pair: the best of times.
For two-time Tony nominee Andreas — who was raised in Suffern and now calls Croton-on-Hudson home — it’s a return to Broadway after a long absence during which she raised a special-needs son. (Mac, 22, now lives in a Buchanan group home.)
For Perlow, a 2003 graduate of Briarcliff High School whose parents still live in Briarcliff Manor, “La Cage” marks his Broadway debut.
The revival of the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein musical is nominated for 11 Tony Awards and has won four Outer Critics Circle Awards, including best musical revival.
It stars Kelsey Grammer (TV’s Frasier) and Douglas Hodge as longtime partners Georges and Albin who run a drag cabaret on the Mediterranean.
(Mike Nichols turned it into the 1996 film “The Birdcage,” starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, and set it in Miami.)
While this revival originated in London, all but two roles were recast for Broadway, where Andreas (as Jacqueline) and Perlow (as Etienne) joined the show.
“For this to be my Broadway debut and for it to be such a big hit is more than I could have dreamed of,” says Perlow, sitting in the back of the balcony before a recent performance.
“It’s so cool to be moving in these circles now,” he adds. “Opening night, Jerry Herman was up on stage with us. Tears were streaming down my face because I can’t believe that all of a sudden I’m on a Broadway stage standing next to Jerry Herman.”
Andreas, a Tony nominee for “Oklahoma!” (1980) and “On Your Toes” (1983), has known Herman for years — “he’s a buddy” — and called him when the nominations were announced.
In “La Cage,” she’s the very French restaurant owner, Jacqueline, who joins Albin in “The Best of Times.”
It has been a long time since her last Broadway role, in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” a decade ago. Andreas made her Broadway debut in “Angel Street,” the stage version of “Gaslight,” in 1975.
She certainly hasn’t been idle. She has been singing cabaret and, in 2007, starred in a national tour of “Light in the Piazza.”
She played Margaret Johnson, a woman letting go of her special-needs child. The job began four days after Andreas granted Mac’s wish to move into a group home.
“He wanted his independence as much as he could have it.”
The timing gave her unusual insight into the character she played for 55 weeks.
“There were a lot of breaks, so I was able to be home to do the guardianship,” she says.
“Theater basically is anti-family. You never tuck your kids in.”
“La Cage” is closer to cabaret than a more traditional musical. Set in a nightclub and in Jacqueline’s restaurant, the staging lets her connect directly with the audience, to make eye contact with theatergoers, some of whom are seated at tiny cabaret tables along the edge of the stage.
“It’s kind of neat,” she says.
Making his first Broadway appearance in “La Cage” is beyond neat, Perlow says.
“To risk a cliché, it’s a dream come true, but it is a dream come true. I’ve daydreamed about it for a long time.”
Much of that dreaming was likely done at Little Village Playhouse, the Pleasantville youth theater founded by Adam Cohen.
“I can’t say enough about how important that place is,” Perlow says. “It taught me the habit of showing up at a rehearsal with some consistency and learning about the family you can be and learning how to keep your mouth shut during music rehearsal.
“These things, that I learned in what is now a Subway sandwich shop in Pleasantville, are things I use in my Broadway rehearsals. And I would not have learned them if it hadn’t been for LVP and Adam.”
“So much Sondheim,” he adds with a laugh. “I did ‘Sweeney Todd,’ ‘Pacific Overtures,’ which no one does and I will probably never do again. I did Adam Guettel’s song cycle, ‘Myths and Hymns,’ which I still sing songs from for auditions.”
After nearly three years specializing in musical theater at NYU’s CAP21 conservatory, Perlow turned to the classics, with a year of Shakespeare training.
Now, he plays a villager, Etienne, in “La Cage.” He also understudies the role of Jean-Michel, the son of Grammer’s character, Georges, whose engagement estranges Albin, Georges’ partner.
“One of the first days, Terry Johnson our director told us, ‘Take a walk out on stage and make sure you see the balcony and know vocally what it is to cover the balcony.’ Because it’s different to be in a Broadway house.”
Andreas’ voice, strong and dynamic, fills the house when she’s on stage, but the veteran savors her time off of it, too.
“I’m not on till the middle of the act,” she says. “I have time to sit in my room and read. I have time to finally learn French. I have time. I’ve never given myself that most beautiful gift. I have time and I’m beginning to feel it.”
Andreas, a student of metaphysics, has a clear approach to the here and now.
“Now is the only point of power you have,” she says. “You can’t control the future and you can’t adjust the past. So this is the moment you have to make your life work. That’s what I mean when I sing ‘The Best of Times.’ This moment is the best part of time.”
“So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
And make this moment last
Because the best of times is now,
Is now, is now.”
“La Cage Aux Folles”
Where: Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
Tickets: $36.50 to $132.50. Premium cabaret seats $251.50.
Photo by Mark Vergari/The Journal News: Christine Andreas of Croton-on-Hudson and David Nathan Perlow of Briarcliff Manor, in front of the Longacre Theatre, where they are performing as Jacqueline and Etienne in the Broadway revival of “La Cage Aux Folles.”