The curtain rises on a street in St. Tropez. As the sun goes down and the lights come on in the building windows - Prelude - we see a nightclub, La Cage aux Folles, in the distance. Suddenly, we are inside, and Georges welcomes us to the club he owns and hosts.
The club curtain rises, and we are introduced to the performers...a line of female impersonators called Les Cagelles - We Are What We Are. Are they really all guys? We won't find out until the finale!
ZaZa, the star of the show, is, as always, late. As Georges goes to hurry her up, we realize that ZaZa is also Georges' lover of 20 years, Albin. After a small battle, Albin agrees to dress for the show, climbs the stairs to his dressing room and begins applying his makeup - A Little More Mascara.
Georges returns to their apartment behind the club to find his son waiting. Jean-Michel, the product of a one-night affair 25 years earlier, announces his intention to marry Anne, the daughter of an anti-Gay politician, Deputy Edouard Dindon. The problem is, Anne's parents are coming to meet Jean-Michel's parents, and Jean-Michel doesn't want Albin anywhere in sight. He sings With Anne on My Arm and convinces Georges of the sincerity of his emotions. Agreeing to help his son leaves Georges in an uncomfortable predicament: he must now tell Albin he is not wanted at the forthcoming family gathering. Georges sings and dances with Albin - With You On My Arm - to prepare him for the bad news.
They go for a walk through town; then seated at an outdoor cafe table, Georges tries, but cannot bring himself to tell Albin the truth. The moon is full, and so is Georges heart - Song On the Sand (La da da da). It is suddenly time for the second show, and Albin rushes back to ready himself. The midnight show begins - La Cage Aux Folles.
Coming offstage after his number, Albin catches Georges and Jean-Michel removing his belongings from the apartment, and Georges is finally forced to tell all instead of reacting as we expect him to. Albin goes out on stage to finish his performance. He begins to sing, but his emotions take charge. Albin sends the cast offstage, turns to Georges in the wings and declares I Am What I Am. In a triumphant gesture, he tears off his wig, throws it at Georges and storms out of the club.
At the street cafe the following morning, Georges persuades Albin to speak to him - Song On the Sand (Reprise) - and begs him to come to the dinner party disguised as Uncle Al. But Albin has a bit to learn about passing for a heterosexual - Masculinity.
The apartment is now stripped of its decor as Albin has been stripped of his, but it's still not enough for Jean-Michel, who rails against his father's lover. Georges, fed up with his son's selfishness, tries to tell the boy who Albin is - Look Over There.
The Dindons arrive - Cocktail Counterpoint. Albin, self-sacrificing to the end, disguises himself as Jean-Michel's mother and suddenly appears to save the day. He whisks his guests off to Chez Jacqueline. Jacqueline, recognizing her old friend ZaZa, embarrasses Albin into performing - The Best of Times. ZaZa wins over his in-laws-to-be until, during his triumphant bow, he pulls off his wig out of habit and is revealed as a man in drag.
Back in the apartment, the Dindons fume as Jean-Michel apologizes to his "mother" - Look Over There (Reprise). Disgusted with his "perversity," the Dindons try to leave but are stopped by Jacqueline, who, recognizing Dindon, has invited the press to photograph her with him and the gay couple. They're trapped, but Albin has the solution. He places the Dindons in show costumes and sneaks them out as part of The Finale.
The Dindons have escaped: the young couple is off to be married, the club show is over, and Georges is left alone onstage. Albin appears, and the two walk off, arm in arm, into the St. Tropez sunrise.