From Rent to A Strange Loop: Reflecting on Queer Representation on the Broadway Stage | Playbill

Special Features From Rent to A Strange Loop: Reflecting on Queer Representation on the Broadway Stage

Members of the theatre community reflect on embodying iconic queer characters.

Joan Marcus_Favorite Production Photos Feature_HR
Rent

Over the last several decades, Broadway has expanded its repertoire to include shows that highlight characters from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Playbill asked a number of performers to share their thoughts on having had the opportunity to embody one of contemporary theatre’s iconic queer characters.

Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop

"The most meaningful thing about playing Usher is knowing that people who have never felt seen or heard in their own communities finally have a tangible character and show that lets them know just how important they are to this world. I have been to many shows and left feeling like I am 'less than' because someone like me wasn't present on stage."

Jason Veasey, James Jackson, Jr., Jaquel Spivey, L Morgan Lee, and Antwayn Hopper in A Strange Loop Marc J. Franklin

Matt Doyle, Company 2021 Revival

"What an absolute thrill that Sondheim allowed this role to evolve into a character that represents so many. The last time Company was revived on Broadway, gay marriage was not even legal. It is an honor to take on the anxiety and complexities of the subject, rooted in Marianne Elliott’s careful direction and George Furth’s remarkable text. If anything, I hope many more people are able to identify with this character, regardless of their sexuality or gender."

in <i>Company</i>
Matt Doyle in Company

Isabelle McCalla, The Prom 


"Alyssa Greene gave me so many gifts, but I would have to say the biggest is witnessing the courage she inspired. To this day, I still get messages from queer individuals around the world who see themselves represented in Alyssa’s struggle to find and love herself, and so many of them tell me that The Prom gave them the courage to come out. As a bisexual woman of color, I am grateful that Alyssa Greene continues to make people feel a little less lonely and infinitely more lovable."

Isabelle McCalla and Caitlin Kinnunen

Beth Malone, Fun Home

"There's a responsibility to get it 'right' when you are playing a contemporary luminary like Alison Bechdel, but then add butch lesbian gender identity, and the queer community at large to the cocktail and you begin get a sense of what it is to play Big Alison. Alison's life story warranted the complexity and dignity as any life story would, and the fact that Fun Home was seen to be audacious just because there was a butch at the center of the narrative was always a little problematic for me. But there it was nightly, the audience laughter at the first use of the word dyke. Like the Pavlovian response to that moniker is not one of worth, but of a punchline. Especially in musical theatre. By the end of the show, the word dyke has undergone a sea change. Systematically transformed into a word denoting dignity and beauty. To witness that change nightly is still and probably always will be one of the highlights of my career and life."

Beth Malone, nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance as Alison in <i>Fun Home</i>
Beth Malone, nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance as Alison in Fun Home

Tracie Thoms, Falsettos 2016 Revival

"I love Dr. Charlotte. It was so meaningful to be able to represent a strong, successful, out-and-proud queer woman of color in the 80s. The 'lesbians from next door' serve as an example for not only the audience, but for Marvin. They are living proof that he can have, and deserves to have, the love he desires with Whizzer. That is beautiful."

Betsy Wolfe, Andrew Rannells, Christian Borle, and Tracie Thoms

John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

"Composer Stephen Trask and I created Hedwig free from the crippling anxiety of 'what do the people want to see?' It became a super-queer mashup of drag, punk, Broadway, stand-up, Greek and Gnostic philosophy. Surprisingly, a lot of people wanted to see it. It celebrates self-creation as an antidote to brutality, especially the gender reassignment forced on the title character by the binarchy. In the spirit of drag, performers of all genders, races, and ages have added themselves to the collective unconscious of Hedwig. I welcome them all."

in <i>Hedwig and the Angry Inch</i>
John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rent

"I have been blessed to have been given the opportunity to tell the story of so many in the LGBTQ+ community through the character of Angel. His/her journey and expression of love, compassion, perseverance, and bravery has been an inspiration for several generations, and I’m proud of that took part in that. However, I just danced, walked, and jumped in her shoes eight shows a week. I tip my wig to all the real Angels out there that inspired me and continue to do so."

Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia
 
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