Short North Stage production speaks validity to non-traditional families in the midst of a classic musical

Jerry Herman is one of the titans of musical theater (“Hello Dolly,” “Mame” and many more). And his work in “La Cage Aux Folles” is among his catchiest.

“This is a musical comedy in the tradition of the golden era of musical theater,” said Michael Licata, who directs Short North Stage's production of “La Cage,” in a recent interview. “This is some of [Herman's] best music. Audiences walk out of the theater humming the tunes.”

But one doesn't have to dig too deep to discover that “La Cage” offers some lessons that are as valuable now as they were when the play opened on Broadway 35 years ago. Based on a play by Jean Poiret and with a book by Harvey Fierstein, “La Cage” concerns Georges, the proprietor of a drag club, his partner, Albin, who also happens to be the featured performer, and the conflict that ensues when Georges' son, Jean-Michel, returns home with his fiancee and her conservative parents.

“You've got statements about family and about love. Here are two leading men who truly love each other, who have a valid relationship, and who basically raised a son,” Licata said.

A farce, the play careens from silliness to silliness, ultimately finding the prospective in-laws escaping the club disguised as drag performers to avoid being discovered by the press.

“There are both laughs and tears,” Licata said. “There is a lot of comedy, but buried in it is an enormous amount of humanity.”