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June 9, 2023

Great Works of the LGBTQIA+ Canon

A photo from the 2023 Broadway production of Fat Ham.

Concord Theatricals proudly licenses some of the most important works exploring the LGBTQIA+ experience. From a harrowing drama about gay men fighting for survival during the Holocaust, to a provocative musical about a lesbian graphic novelist coming to terms with her closeted father’s secret life, to an outrageous comedy about a queer, Black, Southern college kid facing love and loss at an uproarious family barbecue, these plays and musicals address the depth and breadth of human experience in the LGBTQIA+ community.

A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 1f, 6m)
Meet Usher: a Black, queer writer writing a musical about a Black, queer writer writing a musical about a Black, queer writer. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical, Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, blisteringly funny masterwork exposes the heart and soul of a young artist grappling with desires, identity and instincts he both loves and loathes. Hell-bent on breaking free of his own self-perception, Usher wrestles with the thoughts in his head, brought to life on stage by a hilarious, straight-shooting ensemble. Bold and heartfelt in its truth-telling, A Strange Loop is the big, Black and queer-ass Great American Musical for all!

Ain’t No Mo’ by Jordan E. Cooper (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 4f, 2m)
Through a blend of sketch, satire, avant-garde theatre and a dose of drag, Ain’t No Mo’ answers the incendiary question: What if the United States government offered Black Americans one-way plane tickets to Africa? This unpredictable comedy speeds through the turbulent skies of being Black in today’s America. A kaleidoscope of moments surrounding this great exodus are told by an ensemble cast featuring Peaches, a larger-than-life flight agent boarding the final plane leaving the United States. Ain’t No Mo’ leaves audiences crying with laughter – and thinking through the tears.

Bent by Martin Sherman (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 11m)
This 1979 Broadway and West End hit, a brutal portrait of gay men’s persecution in Nazi Germany, shocked audiences by shining a spotlight on a critical period in gay history. In 1934 Berlin on the eve of the Nazi incursion, Max and his lover Rudy flee persecution by the murderous Nazis. Rudy and Max are captured and, after a failed escape attempt, Rudy is beaten to death. In a death camp at Dachau, Max and fellow prisoner Horst, both branded with the pink triangle, hope to survive with only each other for comfort and courage.

Bootycandy by Robert O’Hara (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy/Satire / 2f, 3m)
A kaleidoscope that interconnects to portray growing up gay and black, Bootycandy tells the story of Sutter, who is on an outrageous odyssey through his childhood home, his church, dive bars, motel rooms and even nursing homes. Weaving together scenes, sermons, sketches and daring meta-theatrics, O’Hara’s uproarious satire crashes headlong into the murky terrain of pain and pleasure and… Bootycandy.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie by Tom MacRae, Dan Gillespie Sells & Jonathan Butterell (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 8f, 10m)
Funny, fabulous and feel-good, this musical sensation, which premiered in Sheffield and moved to the West End in 2017, celebrates drag, self-expression, friendship and community. Supported by his brilliant, loving mum and surrounded by his friends, 16-year-old Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies, and steps out of the darkness into the spotlight.

Falsettos by William Finn & James Lapine (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 3f, 3m, 1 boy)
Hilarious, heartbreaking and utterly unique, Falsettos is a contemporary musical about family, relationships, bar mitvahs, baseball and AIDS. A seamless pairing of March of the Falsettos (US/UK) and Falsettoland (US/UK), two acclaimed off-Broadway musicals written nearly a decade apart, Falsettos is the tale of a neurotic New Yorker named Marvin, who leaves his wife Trina and young son Jason to live with his lover, Whizzer. With the help of their neighbors, Charlotte and Cordelia, Marvin and his entire family learn to grow up and face their future with love and dignity.

Fat Ham by James Ijames (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 3f, 4m)
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright James Ijames reinvents Shakespeare’s masterpiece with his new drama, a delectable comic tragedy. Juicy is a queer, Southern college kid, already grappling with some serious questions of identity, when the ghost of his father shows up in their backyard, demanding that Juicy avenge his murder. It feels like a familiar story to Juicy, well-versed in Hamlet’s woes. What’s different is Juicy himself, a sensitive and self-aware young Black man trying to break the cycles of trauma and violence in service of his own liberation. From an uproarious family barbecue emerges a compelling examination of love and loss, pain and joy.

Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron & Alison Bechdel (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 4f, 2m, 1 girl, 2 boys)
The first Tony-winning Best Musical with an all-female writing team, Fun Home premiered off-Broadway in 2013, opening on Broadway in 2015. In its portrait of a lesbian artist and her memories of her closeted gay father, the groundbreaking work brilliantly and heartbreakingly depicts, in the microcosm of one family, the contrast of generational experiences in the LGBTQ+ community. When her father dies unexpectedly, graphic novelist Alison dives deep into her past to tell the story of her unique childhood at the family’s funeral home, exploring her own sexuality and posing questions about her father’s secret life.

La Cage aux Folles by Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Herman & Jean Poiret (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 3f, 7m +Ensemble)
A traditional book musical with a gloriously old-fashioned score, La Cage was nonetheless groundbreaking when it opened on Broadway on August 21, 1983. Based on the hit French film, the hilarious musical comedy presents a family headed by two gay men. Jerry Herman’s lovely “Song on the Sand,” sung by Georges to Albin, marked a theatre milestone: for the first time in history, a man stood on a Broadway stage and sang a heartfelt love song to another man. The show also introduced a powerful and enduring gay anthem; “I Am What I Am,” which celebrates gay identity, became the soundtrack for generations of LGBTQ+ protests, marches and celebrations.

Plot Points In Our Sexual Development by Miranda Rose Hall (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 1f, 1 trans man)
Theo and Cecily want to be honest about their sexual histories, but what happens when telling the truth jeopardizes everything? A contemporary queer love story, Plot Points in Our Sexual Development explores gender, intimacy and the dangers of revealing yourself to the person you love.

Rights of Passage by Robert Leone & Ed Decker (US)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 2f, 6m)
Exploring the lives of LGBTQ people worldwide, this engrossing and highly theatrical play premiered at the New Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco in August 2012. Mixing puppetry, mask and dance with modern devices such as digital media, Rights of Passage explores the struggle of Wayan, a young, gay Hindu man in Indonesia. Beyond Wayan’s journey, the play expands to tell true stories of LGBTQ struggles and triumphs from around the world.

Southern Comfort by Julianne Wick Davis, Dan Collins (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 5f, 6m)
For decades, while Broadway frequently presented cross-dressing characters for comic purposes, actual transgender people remained virtually invisible in musical theatre. That changed when Southern Comfort introduced a nuanced, compassionate portrait of a family of transgender friends. Based on the 2001 Sundance Film Festival documentary, this 2013 bluegrass musical follows the last year of Robert Eads, a transgender man in Georgia, as he is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. He surrounds himself with his chosen family, who are predominantly transgender, as they share monthly potluck meals. Like any family, they have their own trials and tribulations, but ultimately, they all seek acceptance for who they are.

The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 9m)
This groundbreaking play premiered off-Broadway at Theatre Four on April 14, 1968 – more than a year before the Stonewall Uprising – and ran for 1,001 performances. Subsequently made into a feature film with the original cast, The Boys in the Band was scathing and unapologetic in its frank portrayal of gay men in New York. In his Upper East Side apartment, Michael throws a birthday party for Harold, a self-avowed “thirty-two-year-old, pockmarked, Jew fairy,” complete with a surprise gift: “Cowboy,” a street hustler. As the evening wears on – fueled by drugs and alcohol – bitter, unresolved resentments among the guests come to light. The play’s honesty and brashness made it a game-changer; after The Boys in the Band, theatre would never be the same.

The Cake by Bekah Brunstetter (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 3f, 1m)
As “religious exemption” bills continued to crop up across the country, Bekah Brunstetter brought humor and humanity to both sides of the contentious civil rights issue with The Cake, which opened off-Broadway in 2019. Della makes cakes, not judgment calls – those she leaves to her husband, Tim. But when the girl she helped raise comes back home to North Carolina to get married, and the fiancé is actually a fiancée, Della’s life gets turned upside down. She can’t really make a cake for such a wedding, can she? For the first time in her life, Della has to think for herself.

The Judas Kiss by David Hare (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 1f, 6m)
David Hare’s compelling depiction of Oscar Wilde just before and after his imprisonment debuted in the West End on March 12, 1998 and opened on Broadway shortly thereafter. Act One captures the author in 1895 on the eve of his arrest. Though he has a chance to flee to the continent, Wilde chooses to let the train leave without him. In the second act, Wilde is in Naples more than two years later, after his release from Reading Gaol. In exile, he is drawn to a reunion with his unworthy lover, leading to a final betrayal.

The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 1f, 8m)
A searing drama about public and private indifference to the AIDS plague and one man’s lonely fight to awaken the world to the crisis, The Normal Heart opened at The Public Theater on April 21, 1985. A barely fictionalized account of Larry Kramer’s life experience as co-founder of GMHC and ACT-UP, the play concerns Ned Weeks, a gay activist enraged at the indifference of public officials and the gay community. Relentless in his public and political fight, Ned confronts the personal toll of AIDS when his lover dies of the disease. Presented in the midst of a staggering rise in deaths from AIDS, The Normal Heart was both a desperate political wake-up call and an abiding artistic triumph.

The Ritz by Terrence McNally (1975) (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 3f, 14m)
Terrence McNally managed to be both a traditionalist and a pioneer with this uproarious 1975 Broadway hit; he set his traditional door-slamming farce in a gay bathhouse. When Gaetano Proclo, a hapless, middle-aged, overweight, very married man takes it on the lam from his mafioso brother-in-law, Carmine Vespucci, he ducks into “The Ritz,” the last place anyone would look for him. In the bathhouse, he encounters go-go boys, bumbling detectives and Googie Gomez, an over-the-top would-be Bette Midler looking for her big break. Post-Stonewall but pre-AIDS, The Ritz celebrated the free spirit of early “Gay Lib” with joy and high-speed hilarity.

The Rolling Stone by Chris Urch (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 3f, 3m)
Chris Urch’s portrait of violent homophobia in Uganda premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester in 2015, transferred to the Orange Tree Theatre in London and premiered off-Broadway at Lincoln Center in 2019. Set in Uganda, a country subjected to severe anti-homosexuality laws, The Rolling Stone is an intimate yet explosive family drama about two brothers – one a gay man in a clandestine relationship, and the other a church pastor who fervently rails against the lifestyle his brother is forced to conceal.

The View UpStairs by Max Vernon (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 2f, 8m)
When Wes, a young fashion designer from 2017, buys an abandoned building in the French Quarter of New Orleans, he finds himself transported to the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant 70s gay bar. As this forgotten community comes to life, Wes embarks on an exhilarating journey of self-exploration spanning two generations of queer history. This smash off-Broadway hit features a gritty, glam rock score and a tight-knit ensemble of unforgettable characters. The View UpStairs asks what has been gained and lost in the fight for equality, and how the past can help guide all of us through an uncertain future.

Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 2f, 4m)
Harvey Fierstein’s comedy premiered off-Broadway at La Mama ETC in 1978, opening on Broadway four years later in 1982. Radically honest, hilariously contemporary and deeply moving, Torch Song Trilogy is constructed of three one-act plays exploring the life of Arnold Beckoff, a torch song-singing Jewish drag queen in New York City. In his uniquely appealing voice, Arnold tells of his struggles through love, loss, the challenge of child-rearing and the fight for acceptance. In 2018, the play returned to Broadway in a two-act version titled Torch Song (US/UK).

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom by Charles Busch (US)
(Short Play, Comedy / 2f, 6m)
One of the longest-running plays in off-Broadway history, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom paved the way for a string of off-Broadway hits from Charles Busch, including Psycho Beach Party, The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset, Die Mommie Die! and The Divine Sister. Capturing a deliriously gay sensibility but appealing to all audiences, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom tells the saga of two fatally seductive vampiresses whose paths first collide in ancient Sodom. Their bitter rivalry as bloodsuckers (and actresses) endures for 2,000 years, with stops in 1920s silent-movie Hollywood and contemporary Las Vegas.

Voyage to Lesbos by The Five Lesbian Brothers: Maureen Angelos, Lisa Kron, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell & Peg Healey (US)
(Full-Length Play, Dark Comedy / 5f)
Legendary theater troupe the Five Lesbian Brothers made their debut with this outrageous and provocative 1990 comedy. Their later collaborations include Brave Smiles: Another Lesbian Tragedy, The Secretaries, Brides of the Moon and Oedipus at Palm Springs. This first play, Voyage to Lesbos, takes a darkly humorous look at the warping effects of internalized homophobia and phallo-centrism on the lesbian psyche. In Lesbos, Illinois, in a vaguely defined pre-Stonewall, post-Freudian period of American culture, five inextricably intertwined women ostensibly prepare for a wedding, while their every action serves to sabotage it. Highlights include several rousing musical numbers and a jerk-off session between the cousins Bonnie and Connie, involving banal heterosexual fantasy and a vacuum cleaner.

Header Image: 2023 Broadway production of Fat Ham (Joan Marcus)