Wednesday, July 08, 2015

A preview: Gays, Lesbians, Transgenders and the American Musical: Musical Theater Project

What do “Avenue Q,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “A Chorus Line,” “Fun Home,” “The Color Purple,” “Kinky Boots,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “A Man of No Importance,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Spring Awakening,” and “Victor/Victoria” have in common?  Yes, they are all musicals.  They also  contain Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and/or Transgendered characters or themes.

William Goldman in his book, “The Season,” states that “the Broadway musical would not exist without LGBT involvement.”  Yes, themes about those various lifestyles abound.  And people who identify themselves LGBT have had strong influences and involvement in the musical theatre art form.  From composers like Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein and Jerry Herman, to performers such as Harvey Fierstein, Nathan Lane, Lea DeLaria, Neil Patrick Harris,  Jane Lynch, and Lilly Tomlin, the LGBT community has been a power in musical theater.

The field probably attracted and still attracts so many LGBTs because it provides a safe place for participation.  Rather than entering a hostile corporate world, the choice is to go into a theater community which is more accepting, less prejudiced, allowing talent rather than sexual orientation to be the evaluator of who is successful.  The rainbow ceiling tends to be porous in the wonderful world of show business.

As an art form, the Broadway musical probably “came out” in 1983 with the opening of Jerry Herman’s “La Cage aux Folles,” which contained not only a love story between two mature gay men, but bisexuality, cross-dressing, a drag queen, confronting of homosexual prejudice, and the song, “I Am What I Am,” considered to be the “national anthem” of gay men.

The newest “LGBT” musical hit is the multi-Tony and Drama Desk winning “Fun Home,” the adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about herself (a lesbian) and her father (a closeted gay man).  It’s the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian.

The Musical Theater Project will, on August 13, present, “I Am What I Am:  Gays, Lesbians, and the American Musical,” at 7 pm in the Alma Theater of Cain Park.  It will look at the “coded” songs of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart in the 1920s to the breakout musicals of the post-Stonewall 1970s.  The performance will be co-hosted by Scott Plate and Bill Rudman, and feature Molly Andrews-Hinders, Katherine DeBoer and Jared Leal.

For tickets call 216-245-8687 or go online to or to Cain Park, 216-371-3000 or go to

(Footnote:  some material in this article is based on “Musical Theater”