Broadway Pride: Gay on the Great White Way

By Brandon Voss

Originally published on Advocate.com June 28 2013 1:25 PM ET

MUSICALS

Kinky Boots
Based on the 2005 film about a drag queen named Lola who saves a shoe factory, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning musical adaptation isn’t just an excuse for sassy drag numbers — although, choreographed by out Broadway Bares creator Jerry Mitchell, they are sickening. Composer-lyricist Cyndi Lauper says “Sex Is in the Heel," but the magic of this show is in its heart; as Lola, who’s dealing with a bully and daddy issues, gay star Billy Porter is actually most affecting without makeup.
Hirschfeld Theatre, open-ended.

Matilda
Based on the Roald Dahl children’s novel about a bookish young girl who overcomes an unpleasant upbringing, this British import is often frantic, incomprehensible, and too British for its own good, but it’s also a visually stunning spectacle with a positive message of self-empowerment. And as played by Bertie Carvel in drag, mannish headmistress Miss Trunchbull might be the most quietly terrifying villain since Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly.
Shubert Theatre, open-ended.

Cinderella
This totally charming stage adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's TV musical has a fairy godfather in gay playwright Douglas Carter Beane, who gave the classic a fresh new book and added depth to its kingdom of characters. The political, post-feminist makeover allows for a more independent Cinderella — the luminous Laura Osnes — and a wickedly complicated stepfamily. You'll have a ball, but no, you can't borrow the Tony-winning gowns by famed gay designer William Ivey Long.
Broadway Theatre, open-ended.

Pippin
Stephen Schwartz’s ’70s coming-of-age musical about King Charlemagne’s son gets a high-energy revival courtesy of Hair’s Diane Paulus, who turns the show-within-a-show into a thrilling big-top circus. At one point, egged on by Patina Miller’s androgynous Leading Player, young Pippin — charismatic cutie Matthew James Thomas — finds himself at the center of a pansexual cage orgy that includes limber ensemble member Orion Griffiths, recent winner of the Broadway Beauty Pageant.
Music Box Theatre, open-ended.

Annie
Even at the expense of some pizzazz, director James Lapine wisely aims for gritty realism over cartoonish charm in his strong revival of the 1977 rags-to-riches musical. Grating Noo Yawk accent aside, Lilla Crawford is a pint-size powerhouse as optimistic orphan Annie, who kicks the Great Depression by moving into Daddy Warbucks’s sweet digs for the holidays. And no one terrorizes little girls with glee like Jane Lynch, who makes a fine Broadway debut as boozy floozy Miss Hannigan.
Palace Theatre, open-ended.

PLAYS

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Out scribe Christopher Durang relocates Chekhovian themes of discontent and longing to a Pennsylvania farmhouse in his winsomely quirky Tony-winning comedy starring David Hyde Pierce, Sigourney Weaver, and Kristine Nielsen as squabbling siblings. Gifted with a show-stopping monologue about his nostalgic resistance to change, Pierce’s Vanya, a gay aspiring playwright, is especially entranced by the hunky Billy Magnussen as his sister’s exhibitionist boy toy.
Golden Theatre, through August 25.

The Nance
Helmed by gay director Jack O’Brien, this is gay playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s most satisfying work since The Little Dog Laughed. Nathan Lane was born to play Chauncey Miles, a famous burlesque “nance,” a flamingly effeminate stock character, in ’30s New York, where the mayor starts cracking down on “deviants.” His one-liners are priceless, but the breakout star here is Jonny Orsini as Chauncey’s younger lover  — and not just because of his memorable nude scene.
Lyceum Theatre, through August 11.

MacBeth
The Good Wife’s Alan Cumming wows with a giddily disorienting solo reimagining of Shakespeare’s murderous tragedy — stripped to its unsettling core with chilling moments of macabre stagecraft — that casts him as a frenzied psych ward patient whose multiple personalities include Lady MacBeth and the weird sisters. If you miss this brief engagement, don’t strut and fret; there’s an audio recording available of last year's National Theatre of Scotland production.
Barrymore Theatre, through July 14.

The Assembled Parties
Gay playwright Richard Greenberg of Take Me Out fame scores again with this witty, elegant, and very intellectual drama covering two decades of an affluent Jewish family fractured by everything from financial decline to AIDS. Vocal LGBT rights activist Judith Light won a Tony for her role as a neurotic Jewish mother, but the stellar cast also includes Jake Silbermann, who played gay on As the World Turns, and Jessica Hecht, best known to Friends fans as lesbian bride Susan.
Friedman Theatre, through July 28.

I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers
Back on Broadway for the first time in more than 30 years, Bette Midler is simply divine as late showbiz “superagent” Sue Mengers in John Logan’s thin yet tasty solo bio-play. Among her dishy Hollywood anecdotes, Sue recalls discovering Barbra Streisand in a gay bar and has a great zinger about Elton John being the easiest dinner guest ever: “He’ll eat anything but pussy.” Out director Joe Mantello keeps Bette glued to the sofa, but boy, it’s one swell party.
Booth Theatre, through June 30.