Road Trip: Broadway, Baby
The Great White Way has long been a gay mecca. And this season is no exception with several shows that highlight gay life and feature a slew of LGBT characters – with stories ranging from early AIDS activism to alternative families, trials of masculinity and drag queens.
While old standbys are still playing to packed houses on Broadway and on national tours, like Billy Elliot, Wicked, Chicago, Hair and Mamma Mia, there are a few new shows that have been enchanting theatre goers and critics alike. Here’s a round up of the most gay-friendly plays and musicals that may have you planning your next trip to NYC:
The Normal Heart recently opened with rave reviews. First produced in 1985 as a chronicle of gay friends during the early AIDS epidemic, Larry Kramer’s watershed drama takes a bold, angry approach to what the community was experiencing as doctors and politicians fell short of saving them. Outrageous and unflinching, the play still manages to confront some of the hardest-hitting issues about sexuality and politics in our world – both then and now.
The play – which runs for only 96 performances – stars a few famous faces, like the very handsome Luke Macfarlane from Brothers and Sisters, Ellen Barkin from Ocean’s Thirteen, Joe Mantello from Angels in America, Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory, among many others.
Another gay icon and activist – Harvey Fierstein – stars in La Cage aux Folles as the larger than life (literally) Albin, a performer – who moonlights as drag queen “Zaza” – and struggles to fit into the traditional definition of family.
The famous gravelly voiced Fierstein – best known for epic gay play Torch Song Trilogy – won one of his four Tony Awards for writing the book for the musical in 1983. This season, he reinvents the role alongside Christopher Seiber, who plays his longtime partner Georges, the owner of a glitzy nightclub in Saint-Tropez, who is also dealing with their son’s impending marriage – to a woman!
For all of its high camp, comedy and kick lines, the story really revolves around what it means to be in love and to be a family – traditional or otherwise. It was one of the earliest Tony Award-winning musicals to ever address gay parenting when it first opened in the early 80s (it’s based on the French play by the same name from 1973).
Gay fans may recognize quite a few of the musical numbers, including the most famous “I Am What I Am,” a song penned by Jerry Herman which has become a gay anthem over the years at many a Pride event.
Another drag queen-centric show – Priscilla Queen of the Desert – picks up on a recent trend of movies and television shows being made into tourist-friendly musicals on Broadway (think: Catch Me If You Can, Mamma Mia and The Addams Family). The campy show, which is based on the independent Australian flick The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert from 1994, follows three drag queens on a road trip to meet one of the performer’s long-lost sons.
What you can expect from the show is an ABBA-esque treatment to a poignant story about friendship and family with plenty of over-the-top costume changes and lavish disco numbers such as “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “I Will Survive.”
And much like the film it was based on, the musical puts the extravagant tour bus center stage throughout the show – rooftop stiletto and all – as audiences are treated to a silly, family-friendly mishmash of singing, dancing and lots of men in pantyhose and fake eyelashes.