Ring of Keys
June is bustin’ out all over, and it’s the month where we commemorate the Stonewall Uprising, where in 1969 Marsha P. Johnson, a Black, trans, bisexual woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman, led a protest for people in the LGBT community to be able to live freely without fear of prosecution.
Musicals have a poor history of including LGBTQi characters, and when they do, often it is to make those characters the punchline because of their sexuality. While representation of gay men has increased, there are infuriatingly few musicals featuring lesbians, and even less featuring people who are bisexual, trans, or intersex. Oh, how I wish Head Over Heels and The Prom had been filmed live during their Broadway runs. #MORELesbiansOnBroadway!
Here’s a quick look at some filmed live musicals with LGBTQi themes and central characters (this post includes affiliate links).
The Color Purple
Based on Alice Walker’s novel, with music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, and book by Marsha Norman, the plot follows the eventful life of Celie, a Black lesbian in the American South in the first half of the 20th century.
Curve Theatre in Leicester, England, streamed a digital concert version of their 2019 production to audiences in the UK earlier this year. The 2019 production was subject to controversy when Curve fired the lead actor initially cast to play the role of Celie after it was revealed the actor had posted homophobic statements on social media. She attempted to sue Curve theatre, and was ultimately ordered to pay the theatre’s extensive legal costs.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the story of a gay teenager who lives in a Yorkshire council estate and dreams of becoming a drag queen. Composed by first-time theatre writers Dan Gillespie Sells (music) and Tom MacRae (book and lyrics, the musical was inspired by the BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16.
The musical was filmed live during its West End run, and broadcast in cinemas throughout the UK and Ireland, and in the North America, in 2018.
While the movie adaptation will be available worldwide on Amazon on September 17, 2021, the filmed live capture has yet to be made available beyond the initial cinema release.
Adapted from earlier William Finn works, Falsettos follows the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin, his wife, lover, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door.
The Lincoln Center revival in 2017 was filmed live and later broadcast in cinemas across North America. The musical was also broadcast on PBS, and is available to stream on Amazon and BroadwayHD.
From Here to Eternity
Stuart Brayson, Tim Rice, and Bill Oakes’ musical based on the novel of the same name. Unlike the heavily censored novel, the musical surprised audiences with its frank and realistic depictions of homosexuality in the US Army during World War II.
The final performances of West End production were filmed live at the Shaftesbury Theatre in March 2014, and the capture was released in cinemas shortly after.
From Here to Eternity is available to stream on Amazon and BroadwayHD.
Based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic novel of the same name, and composed by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, Fun Home is an intimate musical in which we are introduced to Alison at three different ages as she remembers her life in relation to her closeted father’s suicide shortly after she came out as a lesbian.
The 2017 Victory Garden Theater production was recorded for archival purposes, and in response to the COVID-19 shutdown was made available online for a limited time in May. It is not currently available to view.
La Juala de Las Locas
A Spanish language production of the classic musical comedy La Cage Aux Folles. With a score by Jerry Herman, lyrics by Jean Poiret, and book by Harvey Fierstein, the musical tells the story of a gay couple, Georges and Albin, and the humorous events that transpire when they meet their son’s conservative soon-to-be in-laws.
The Spanish language production has been running for over 5 years, and was filmed at the Hidalgo Teatro in Mexico City in late 2020. It was streamed several times via Ticketmaster Mexico. It is currently not available to view.
Based on the 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie, a factory owner struggling to save his family shoe business, and Lola, a Black gay drag queen. With a little compassion, and a lot of understanding, the unexpected pair learn to embrace their differences and create a line of sturdy stilettos unlike any the world has ever seen.
With a book by Harvey Fierstein, and music and lyrics by Cindy Lauper, the multi-award winning musical was filmed live during its West End run at the Adelphi Theatre and released in cinemas in June 2019.
Kinky Boots is available to stream on Amazon, BroadwayHD and PBS’ Great Performances.
Naked Boys Singing!
A cheeky revue style musical with men singing in a state of undress about various issues, including gay life, coming out, and relationships.
The musical opened off-Broadway in 1999, and played 3069 performances before closing in 2012.
Naked Boys Singing! was filmed live in Los Angeles at the Hayworth Theatre in 2007, and is now available on DVD.
Pieces of String
Pieces of String is an original musical set both in 1940 and the present day. When Jane returns to the family home after her father’s funeral to begin clearing out the house, she unfolds a devastating secret, the ramifications of which stretch across generations.
Writer and composer Gus Gowland was inspired to create Pieces of String after seeing a BBC documentary that briefly mentioned gay relationships in the UK and USA during World War II, and modern day stories of gay men being unable to donate blood. Gowland sought to widen the scope for the way gay male characters are portrayed in musical theatre (a topic which he later explored in his PhD dissertation), and attempted to ensure women were also equally represented in the musical.
The musical is currently available to rent on Digital Theatre.
A modern re-interpretation of Puccini’s La Boheme, RENT tells the story of a group of artists living in the East Village in New York in the late 1980s. The Pulitzer Prize winning musical features several gay characters, including Tom Collins, a college professor who is gay and HIV positive; Angel Dumott Schunard, a drumming drag queen who is also HIV positive; Maureen Johnson, a bisexual performance artist; and Joanne Jefferson a public interest lawyer and lesbian.
There are currently three filmed live productions of RENT - the original Broadway production, Fox’s RENT Live (even if we only got to see the dress rehearsal), and, most recently, Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre 2020 production.
RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway is available on DVD, and available to stream on Amazon, Google Play, VUDU, and YouTube.
Fox’s RENT Live is available on Amazon.
The Rocky Horror Show
Richard O’Brien's musical ode to science fiction and B horror movies that became a cult classic film featuring a sweet transvestite.
The musical has been filmed twice on stage — during the Royal Court’s 50th anniversary in 2006 and the musical’s 40th anniversary in 2015.
The 40th anniversary concert is not officially available, and The Royal Court production, The Rocky Horror Tribute Show, is available on DVD.
Taboo the Musical is a love story set against the artistic backdrop of the New Romantic period in 1980s England, interweaving autobiographical elements from the lives of Leigh Bowery, and Boy George, both legendary queer icons and trendsetters.
The original London production was filmed in 2003 at the Leicester Square Theatre and is available on DVD.
A stage musical based on the film of the same name, starring Julie Andrews, Tony Roberts, and Michael Nouri. Set in a gay nightclub in Paris, the musical follows the trials and tribulations of a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.
The Broadway production was filmed for distribution on Japanese television in 1995 and is now available on DVD.
YANK! tells the story of male soldiers falling in love, depicting the gay world that “thrived just beneath the surface of the US Army in the 1940s.” The musical was a hit of the NY Musical Theatre Festival in 2005, and had a successful off-Broadway run in 2010.
Below 54th hosted a 10th anniversary concert early in 2020 and the video is currently available on YouTube.
Queer Music Heritage has an extensive list of queer-centric musicals that have received commercial cast recordings.
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