Musical Theater Queens (noun, plural): Gay men enlightened enough to realize that stage musicals are the be-all and end-all, the ultimate cultural flowering of the human race.
They are an accepted part of the basic gay stereotype.
Musical (noun, singular): Theatrical production typically of a sentimental or humorous nature that consists of musical numbers and dialogue based upon a unifying plot. For gay believers, musicals are what football is to straight men. Here is a list of Tony Awards winners in the musical category, with references to being gay or with gay characters and gay plots.
1966: Cabaret (Kander & Ebb): After Sally Bowles unsuccessfully tries to seduce Brian, he reveals that he’s been there, done that and it’s not for him. But Sally persists and they eventually become lovers, only to be torn apart when they both realize they’ve been sleeping with rich playboy, Maximilian.
1975: A Chorus Line (Hamlisch & Kleban): Soft-spoken Paul exposes his painful past in a heart-rendering monologue, his early career in a drag act, coming to terms with his manhood, his homosexuality, and his parents' ultimate reaction to finding out about his lifestyle.
1983: La Cage Aux Folles (Jerry Herman): Audiences who would never have gone to “gay theatre” cheered for the story of a middle-aged couple struggling with homophobic in-laws. It was a breakthrough moment.
1992: Falsettos (William Finn): The story involves Marvin, his ex-wife Trina, his psychiatrist Mendel, his son Jason, and his gay lover Whizzer Brown.
1990: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Kander & Ebb): Luis Alberto Molina, a homosexual window dresser, is in a prison in a Latin American country, serving his third year of an eight-year sentence for corrupting a minor. He lives in a fantasy world to flee the prison life, the torture, fear and humiliation. His fantasies turn mostly around movies, particularly around a vampy diva, Aurora. He loves her in all roles, but one scares him: This role is the spider woman, who kills with her kiss.
1996: Rent (Jonathan Larson): Loosely based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City's East Village under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
2001: The Producers adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks' 1968 film of the same name, the story concerns two theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop. Complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful. The humor of the show draws on ridiculous accents, caricatures of homosexuals (“Keep it Gay”) and Nazis (“Springtime for Hitler”), and many show business in-jokes.
2007: Hairspray (Shaiman & Wittman): Many have speculated about whether and how Hairspray counts as a “gay” musical. Of course, there’s the John Waters provenance, the drag lead character (originated by Divine and played on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein), and the inherent campiness of musicals. But the most profound connection lies in its message of acceptance: “Hairspray” celebrates forbidden love in the face of “a never-ending parade of stupid.” It’s a theme gays know well.
2003: Avenue Q (Lopez & Marx): Rod is an extremely well-groomed, obsessively clean, and slightly hysterical closeted homosexual. He is secretly in love with his best friend, Nicky. Rod and Nicky are parodies of Bert and Ernie from “Sesame Street.” In one of the musical's most popular songs, "If You Were Gay," Nicky, who is straight, encourages him to come out of the closet.
2011: The Book of Mormon (Parker/Lopez/Stone): Elder McKinley is one of the lead Mormon elders and the Church's current District Leader in Uganda; he is sexually attracted to men but in denial of his feelings.
2013: Kinky Boots (Jason Brown): Inspired by true events, the musical tells the story of Charlie Price, who inherits a shoe factory from his father. To save the business, Charlie forms an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola. With Lola's help, Charlie develops a plan to produce a line of high-heeled boots. In the process, he and Lola discover that they are not so different after all.
2014: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Mitchell & Trask) is a 2001 rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by a genderqueer East German singer named Hedwig. Hedwig, formerly Hansel, assumes a female persona after a botched sex-change operation which was performed to allow him to marry an American man and escape East Germany. In 2014 it had its first Broadway production, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
2016: Fun Home is a musical adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. The story concerns Bechdel's discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her gay father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life.
BTW: The musical and the term "homosexuality” were invented almost simultaneously. A coincidence but one that theater queens can delight in.
Pier Angelo was born in Italy, moved to England at the age of 17 and learned English at the Nelson School of English. He attended college and graduate school in Manhattan. In 2009 he founded SFGN with Norm Kent. Now he’s retired with his husband Tom and his Affenpinscher Cabbage. He still enjoys writing his column Off The Wall for SFGN.