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By Jane Knoerle
Almanac Lifestyles Editor
Jeffrey Adair, successful businessman and longtime director of the Menlo School benefit, is back in show business. He's appearing in the Broadway By the Bay production of "La Cage Aux Folles" Sept. 16 to Oct. 3 at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center.
Mr. Adair was a professional dancer/singer before he opened J Floral Art 20 years ago. Now he's kicking up his heels (literally) with a new generation. He plays the part of Mercedes, one of the "Cagelles" (chorus girls) in "La Cage Aux Folles," which has been delighting audiences since it opened in 1983. The musical is based on a French play and subsequent film by the same name; later, an American film based on the story was made: "The Birdcage," starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
Mercedes is one of 10 "Cagelle" girls in the story of Albin and Georges, two middle-aged gay lovers who run a transvestite nightclub in St. Tropez. The plot revolves primarily around the complications that develop when their son announces he is getting married to a woman -- not only a woman, but the daughter of a local morals crusader.
Although Mr. Adair is a pro in show business, playing Mercedes is a first for him. He's never done drag before, and will appear in multiple wigs and full makeup, including false eyelashes.
The worst part of playing Mercedes, he says, is wearing high heels. After doing the can-can and tap dancing in high heels, he has only sympathy for his women friends.
At age 52, he admits it takes stamina to keep up with the other "kids" in the chorus, some a generation younger. He worked with a trainer and lost 25 pounds to get in shape for the role. He admits being nervous at the auditions and has been "pleasantly surprised" that he has been able to keep up the pace. The cast is rehearsing three or four hours every day in preparation for the Sept. 16 opening.
"I always wanted to do this show," he says -- and he was ready when the opportunity came.
A successful business
It's been 20 years since he opened J Floral Art in a little building on the El Camino Real in Menlo Park. The store moved to Santa Cruz Avenue for 10 years before relocating to 3489 Edison Way in Redwood City six years ago.
"It was the best thing we ever did. The rent on Santa Cruz Avenue was killing us," he says. "We never lost a customer," he adds.
J Floral Art is noted for its upscale floral arrangements. The firm does a brisk business in weddings, parties and event planning. It has many private and business clients. Many of his loyal customers come from his 22-year association with the annual Menlo School benefit.
Jeffrey Adair grew up in Redwood City and graduated from Sequoia High School. He studied dance for years and enrolled in the theatre arts program at San Jose State. When he was 20, he went to work as a dancer at the old MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Later he moved to the Lido de Paris show in Vegas for seven years and 4,000 performances.
His dancing days also included two years in Munich, Germany, and working with the late Steve Silver in his Las Vegas production of "Beach Blanket Babylon."
"Everybody remembers me as the witch doctor," he says with a laugh.
Returning to the Bay Area, he went into the floral business with Janet Larson, whom he knew through working together on the Menlo School benefit. He had been employed in flower shops between stints as a dancer. Ms. Larson is no longer associated with J Floral Art.
His business partner is also his life partner, Craig Kozlowski. They have been together for 20 years and were married June 17, 2008, on the first day it was legal for same-sex marriage in California. They were married by San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon in his office in Redwood City.
Mr. Adair is working for Mr. Gordon's election campaign for the 21st Assembly District. He and Mr. Kozlowski have been active on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues for the last five or six years.
"We have been fortunate and decided it was time to give back," he says. He has also served on the national board of the Human Rights Campaign.
Right now, his energy is directed toward "La Cage Aux Folles" and opening night. Many of his pals from back East, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, as well as the Peninsula, will be on hand to cheer him in his "girly girl" debut. "They have to see it to believe it," he says with a laugh.
INFORMATION: "La Cage Aux Folles" is playing at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center at 600 N. Delaware Ave. in San Mateo from Thursday, Sept. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 3. Tickets range from $20 to $48 and are on sale by phone at 650-579-5565 or on the Web at broadwaybythebay.org.