Broadway Show TicketsMusicalsCabaretSomething queer this way comes: Best LGBTQIA+ shows on Broadway

Something queer this way comes: Best LGBTQIA+ shows on Broadway

Jenifer

Queer art and entertainment has been as much about the beauty and resilience of the community as it has been about nuanced portrayals of the human condition. With heaping amounts of attitude and glamor thrown in, for good measure. While representation in film and television has been a struggle, especially after the passing of the Hays Code, theater has been an arena where the queer community has always shone.

Here are some of the best LGBTQIA+ shows that have graced the Broadway stages and left a mark for the ages.

Cabaret

A Kander and Ebbs masterpiece, Cabaret opened on Broadway in 1966. It has been revived multiple times on Broadway alone and earned so many awards, it's hard to keep track. But every award is well-earned. The musical is based on John Van Druten's 1951 play I Am a Camera which was itself based on Christopher Isherwood's semi-autobiographical novel Goodbye to Berlin (1939).

The story is set in Berlin in 1929-1930, a time when the "gay capital of Europe" transitioned from a utopia for queer folk into the hotbed of fascism and Nazism, both of which criminalized all things gay and beyond.

My Son's a Queer, (But what can you do?)

Naturally, this one made the list. With a title like that, we don't need neon signs to tell us where to look for a queer story on Broadway. The neon sign is just there for the vibes. But My Son's a Queer, (But what can you do?) is there to tell the wonderful story of Rob Madge and their childhood attempt to stage a Disney parade in their living room for their parents.

Originally set to run on Broadway during the current season, the play has sadly been postponed to the 2024-25 season instead. As heartbroken as we all are, we can rest assured that when it does open, it'll be a hell of a show.

The Book of Mormon

Of all the shows on this list, this one is perhaps the least queer, at least on the surface. The Book of Mormon is a satirical look at organized religion, particularly the Mormon church, and is a riot for that alone. But every now and then, the script beautifully weaves in homosexuality and the repression of queer identities in extremely religious settings, most notably in the song "Turn it Off."

In the sea of queer media that focuses on the pain of existing in an unaccepting society, it can be wonderfully refreshing to be able to turn the lens on the ones doing the repressing and just have ourselves a good laugh.

Bare: The Musical

Of course, if you're looking for something more overtly queer that tackles religious repression, try Bare: The Musical on for size. This coming-of-age rock musical is everything you'd want from an LGBTQIA+ musical on Broadway, following the life and struggles of high school students in a Catholic boarding school.

Fun Home

Based on Alison Bechdel's memoir of the same name, Fun Home is a musical that explores the cartoonist's own lesbian identity as she grapples with the details of her closeted gay father's life. The name Bechdel might seem familiar to many, as it is the name of the infamous Bechdel Test, a way to measure how well-represented women are in film. It was named after it first appeared in her 1985 comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For as "a little lesbian joke in an alternative feminist newspaper."

Bechdel's work - and life - are revolutionary and Fun Home is a glimpse into her wonderfully queer world.

The Color Purple

One of the most important aspects of the queer experience is the intersectionality of several struggles, such as race and gender, that define the fight for equality. The Color Purple was originally a novel by Alice Walker that depicted the experiences of several black girls and women in the old South each facing a unique yet interconnected struggle. But the queer love at the heart of the tale is relatively unknown.

The relationship between the characters Celie and Shug, boldly portrayed in the novel, has been criminally downplayed for decades with only newer adaptations depicting it in its true form. Its inclusion adds so much nuance to an already emotionally-charged story.

Take Me Out

Take Me Out is a dramatic exploration of what coming out as a sportsman in an often unforgiving world might be like. While it premiered in 2002, long after the first queer baseball players came out, the play was written before these monumental moments.

To add nuance to the tale, it is set in the locker room of a baseball team, a space that is as much fueled by the triumphant pursuit of glory as it is riddled with homophobia. And this play tackles that and so much more, exploring what it means to exist as a queer man in such a space.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The heaviness of queer content can sometimes take its toll, but if there's one thing the queer community knows how to do well, it's put on a darn good show! Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a jukebox musical that pairs pop music with a road trip, a string of comedic errors, and two drag queens and a trans woman heading to perform at a drag show on the other end of the Australian desert.

A Strange Loop

This Tony Award-nominated production, billed as the “Big, Black, & Queer-Ass American Musical,” is one you cannot skip in a list of LGBTQIA+ shows on Broadway, and there's one very poignant reason why: it isn't just a darn good queer musical, it's also just a darn good production overall.

A Strange Loop follows a man named Usher, who works as an usher and is a Black queer man writing a musical about a Black queer man writing a musical. Hence, the title. The show holds the distinction of supporting actor L Morgan Lee being the first openly trans person to earn a nomination in an acting category for his work in this production.

The Normal Heart

Larry Kramer's autobiographical play focuses on the AIDS epidemic. Notably, it is set at a time when the disease was claiming the lives of gay men before they even knew what it was called. It follows a Jewish-American writer and gay activist named Ned Weeks who attempts to raise awareness around the "silent killer," against a wall of silence and apathy from those in power, a trend that continues even today when the horrific experiences of queer people of this era are brought to the forefront.

The Rocky Horror Show

An experimental, counterculture musical production that explored gender fluidity, sexuality, liberation, and freedom in the 60's, Rocky Horror is a timeless masterpiece of social commentary wrapped in a glittery bow. Everything about this show screams queer, from the celebratory cacophony of corsets, stockings, and rock ballads, to the deeply homophobic reviews it got that it steamrolled past to become a cult classic across all media formats.

Honorable mentions

While this list has named a few select titles that have played on Broadway in the recent decade or so, there is a legacy of queer identity as a defining feature of theater itself. Here are a few honorable mentions of titles that have redefined Broadway.

  1. Rent: A rock musical that follows struggling young artists in Lower Manhattan during the AIDS epidemic.
  2. Kinky Boots: Charlie hopes to save his father's shoe factory by forming an unlikely alliance with drag queen Lola.
  3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch: A rock musical that follows a fictional band with a genderqueer East German singer, inspired by androgynous 70's glam rock and the likes of David Bowie, John Lennon, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop.
  4. La Cage aux Folles: The first Broadway hit centered on a gay couple, this musical follows Georges and Albin, their drag nightclub, and the comedy that ensues when they run into a conservative politician.
  5. The Boys in the Band: A groundbreaking depiction of gay life in 60's and 70's New York.
  6. A Chorus Line: One of the first Broadway productions to highlight queer stories by way of young dancers auditioning for a musical.
  7. Angels in America: A nuanced and extremely complex exploration of the AIDS epidemic, often considered to be a "turning point in the history of gay drama."
  8. Torch Song Trilogy: A play centered on a Jewish gay man, drag queen, and torch singer who grapples with a disillusionment with love in 70's New York.

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