The cast of ‘The Prom.’ (Photo: Deen van Meer)
This year’s Pride celebrations have taken an unusual turn due to COVID-19, but there is still plenty to celebrate. The world of musical theater has often provided a safe space for storytellers to create works inspired by and honoring the LGBTQ community. Here is a look at some of our favorites!
“I Am What I Am”
La Cage aux Folles
The first act of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s Tony Award-winning musical has become an anthem for the LGBTQ community since the musical first opened on Broadway in 1983. The character of Albin, unwilling to compromise his true self, sings:
I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation
It’s my world that I want to have a little pride in
My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in
Life’s not worth a damn
‘Till you can say
“Hey World, I am what I am.
“Ring of Keys”
Adapted from the graphic novel by Lisa Kron, Fun Home (music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics and book by Lisa Kron) tells the coming-of-age story of Alison told through the character at three different ages. Small Alison notices a ring of keys on a female delivery woman and immediately feels a connection.
“What Would I Do?”
William Finn wrote March of the Falsettos in 1981, followed by Falsettoland in 1990. Several years later, the two one-acts, which depicted the complex relationship between gay lovers Marvin and Whizzer, were combined to create Falsettos. Marvin sings “What Would I Do?” near the show’s end, faced with Whizzer’s impending death due to complications related to AIDS. The groundbreaking musical won two Tony Awards.
A Chorus Line
Perhaps the most iconic American musical of the 20th century, A Chorus Line seamlessly weaves together narratives of dancers aspiring to make it on Broadway. Marvin Hamlisch’s music is undeniably catchy, but Paul’s monologue (here performed by Jason Tam as he auditions for the Broadway revival) proves the power of Nicholas Dante and James Kirkwood Jr.’s book.
“Take Me or Leave Me”
Jonathan Larson’s Rent redefined the modern musical when it opened on Broadway in 1996. The interwoven stories of a group of struggling artists in New York City’s East Village ran for 12 years. In this song, the characters of Maureen and Joanne face their personality differences.
“We Kiss in a Shadow”
The King and I
Originally written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the 1951 musical The King and I, Broadway stars Jelani Alladin and Matt Doyle reinterpret the song for the modern era.
“What About Love?”
The Color Purple
Based on the book by Alice Walker, The Color Purple follows the journey of Celie, an African American woman in the early 20th century South. In this song, she explores her relationship with self-determined blues singer Shug Avery. In this rendition, Bryan Terrell Clark and Michael McElroy interpret the song for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ annual fundraising event Broadway Backwards.
“Dance With You”
Soon to be made into a film directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman, The Prom warmed hearts on Broadway during its limited run for its hummable score and affirming story about a group of out-of-luck actors who head to Indiana to help a teen face her community as she comes out as a lesbian. Here, Caitlin Kinnunen, who originated the role of Emma, sings “Dance With You.”
“Why I Love Football”
Based on the film of the same name (and Shakespeare’s Macbeth), this new musical ran Off-Broadway in the fall of 2019 and explores how far a couple will go to achieve the American Dream.
A Strange Loop
Michael R. Jackson’s new musical just won The Pulitzer Prize for Drama for its uncompromising look at what it means to be black and queer in America today. This trailer includes highlights from Playwrights Horizons’ original Off-Broadway company.