These 20 LGBTQ+ Broadway shows stole the spotlight & audience’s hearts

These 20 LGBTQ+ Broadway shows stole the spotlight & audience’s hearts

LGBTQ Entertainment News


LGBTQ+ people have long been known for their dramatic flair — so it’s no wonder that the queer community has created many groundbreaking and award-winning LGBTQ+ Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

Theater allows audiences to explore and experience lives outside of their own, and, musicals let viewers tap their toes while learning about the unique challenges, triumphs, and tragedies that queer people have faces. Far from just providing entertainment, LGBTQ+ Broadway and off-Broadway shows have proven one of the best tools the queer community has to help mainstream culture understand LGBTQ+ lives.

1. Torch Song Trilogy (1982)

torch song trilogy LGBTQ+ broadway
The cover of the printed edition of Torch Song Trilogy, based on the original Broadway poster.

Torch Song Trilogy launched actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein‘s career into the stratosphere. These days, Torch Song Trilogy is thought of as a powerhouse, but at the time, it was dismissed by outlets like the New York Times as a “sincere but sentimentalized view of a transvestite extremes.” Though it initially began in an off-off-Broadway theater, it soon moved to off-Broadway, Broadway itself, and then became a 1988 feature film.

2. The Prom (2016)

The Prom on Broadway
April 30, 2019 Throngs of theatergoers descend on the Longacre Theatre on Broadway in New York to see a performance of the musical “The Prom.” Shutterstock

The Prom — which premiered in 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia before moving to Broadway two years later — is a comedy about four Broadway actors on the verge of being washed up. Meanwhile, an Indiana high school has banned the school’s lesbian student from inviting her girlfriend to prom, and the actors are determined to fix things (and get good press in the process). Ryan Murphy directed the film adaptation in 2020, though he cast the straight James Corden as one of the gay male leads.

3. The Nance (2013)

the nance lgbtq+ broadway
The original poster for The Nance

The Nance starred Nathan Lane as a “nance,” or a stereotypically gay character in burlesque performances. The play takes place in 1937, and covers New York City’s attempts to end burlesque. The play was also filmed and broadcast on PBS in 2014.

4. Harmony (1997)

(from left) Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, and Sean Bell in
(from left) Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, and Sean Bell in “Harmony.” Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Barry Manilow’s Harmony was first staged in San Diego in 1997, but finally made it to Broadway last year. The play tells the story of the Comedian Harmonists, a theatre troupe in 1930s Germany, which included several Jewish members who end up persecuted by antisemitic forces. Though the play does not explicitly hit upon LGBTQ+ themes, its themes of discrimination resonate today — and since Manilow and his collaborator Bruce Sussman are both gay, it’s easy to imagine the similarities are intentional.

5. & Juliet (2019)

& juliet lgbtq+ broadway
Justin David Sullivan in & Juliet Screenshot

& Juliet is a recent Broadway jukebox musical using the music of pop impresario Max Martin. The story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet doesn’t die at the end. (Sorry for the spoiler for a 400-year-old play!) In the play, it’s also revealed that Romeo was pansexual, and one of Juliet’s friends, May, is nonbinary.

6. Kinky Boots (2012)

APRIL 06, 2014: Billy Porter and Andy Kelso take a bow on stage during the curtain call at the anniversary celebration of the musical Kinky Boots on Broadway at The Hirschfeld Theatre lev radin / Shutterstock

Harvey Fierstein & Cyndi Lauper‘s Kinky Boots, an adaptation of the 2005 British film, is based on a true story about how a drag queen helped a shoe manufacturer save his failing family business. Kinky Boots has starred a number of queer icons in its run, including Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and Billy Porter.

7. Fun Home (2013)

Fun Home lgbtq+ broadway
The poster for Fun Home

Fun Home, based on cartoonist Alison Bechdel‘s memoir of the same name, takes place in a funeral home owned by a family. The play is about the closeted patriarch who dies after being hit by a milk truck, and his daughter who discovers he’s gay as she experiences her own emerging identity as a lesbian.

8. Casa Valentina (2014)

casa valentina lgbtq+ broadway
The Playbill for Casa Valentina

Harvey Fierstein’s 2014 play Casa Valentina is about a group of cross-dressing men in a Catskills community. Though the men all identify as heterosexual, the play is about them debating whether or not to become an official organization. The play is based on a real cross-dressing resort, Casa Susanna.

9. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch sequel, John Cameron Mitchell
Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask is a cult-classic off-Broadway play that became a film, and eventually landed on Broadway itself. The story follows a genderqueer rock singer who transitioned into a female identity to escape East Germany shortly before the Berlin Wall fell. The music is amazing, and though Mitchell originated the title role, the 2014 Broadway revival cast Neil Patrick Harris in the lead.

10. Mothers and Sons (2013)

playbill mothers and sons lgbtq+ broadway
The Playbill for Mothers and Sons

Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons is about a mother who visits the partner of her late son who died of AIDS. Mothers and Sons has the honor of being the first time a legally married gay couple could be seen in a show. Unfortunately, it also closed shortly after winning a Tony for Best Play.

11. The Boys in the Band (1968)

The Boys in the Band lgbtq+ broadway
The Playbill for the 2018 Broadway run of The Boys in the Band

The Boys in the Band opened off-Broadway in 1968, and has been revived many times since. The play is controversial — written in a time pre-Stonewall, it’s one of the first theatrical depictions of gay people, and they’re mostly bitter, sad, and spend the entire play cutting one another up in pointed personal dialogue. Whether you love or hate it, however, it was an undeniably important early step in LGBTQ+ Broadway history.

12. Angels in America (1991)

lgbtq+ broadway angels in america
Andrew Garfield, left and James McArdle in Angels in America Gay Times/Helen Maynard

Tony Kushner’s two-part Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes has won nearly every award it’s possible for a play to win, including the Tony and the Pulitzer. The play looks at the AIDS crisis throughout the 1980s. Characters range from gay characters navigating the hardships of the epidemic to Roy Cohn, an infamous closeted lawyer who came to fame as Senator Joe McCarthy’s counsel during the communist witchhunt — Cohn died of AIDS in 1986.

13. Slave Play (2018)

Slave Play LGBTQ+ Broadway
A promotional image from Slave Play

Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play is incredibly controversial. The gay, Black playwright’s play is about three couples — two heterosexual, one gay — erotically roleplaying as actual slaves and masters in the antebellum South. Many critics called for the play to cease production, but it also received 12 Tony nominations and a GLAAD Media Award nomination. It’s been performed on Broadway in two runs and, in 2024, opened on the West End.

14. Gypsy (1959)

gypsy lgbtq+ broadway
The original Playbill for the 1959 production of Gypsy

Gypsy was an early hit for gay musical playwright Stephen Sondheim, telling the story of the striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee and her mother Rose who is basically the definitive stage mother. Though the play somewhat bowdlerized for audiences — it was 1959, after all — in real life, Momma Rose was a lesbian.

15. La Cage aux Folles (1983)

la cage aux folles lgbtq+ broadway
The 1983 playbill for La Cage aux Folles

Yes, it’s another Harvey Fierstein play! His musical adaptation of a 1973 French play followed the owner of a gay nightclub and his drag queen partner. Comedy ensues when their son wants to marry the daughter of a conservative politician. The same story was also adapted into Nathan Lane and Robin Williams’ 1996 comedy film The Birdcage.

16. Deathtrap (1979)

deathtrap lgbtq+ broadway
The Playbill for the original run of Deathtrap.

Deathtrap was written by Ira Levin — the scribe of books and films like The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby and No Time for Sergeants — and is the longest-running comedy thriller on Broadway. The play has a number of twists and turns and often implies that the two male leads are lovers, though the script is not explicitly gay. It was also made into a 1982 film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve.

17. Mean Girls (2017)

Paramount

Mean Girls, based on the 2004 comedy film written by Tina Fey, is about a transfer student who befriends the most popular girls in school while seeking revenge on its “queen bee.” The musical version got 12 Tony nominations and closed only because of the COVID pandemic. The stage musical was also adapted into a 2024 film — and kept the original’s gay sidekick character — though the film’s initial trailer weirdly hid that the fact that it was a musical.

18. Yank! (2010)

Yank! lgbtq+ broadway
A promotional photograph from the 2010 York Theater performance of Yank! Carol Rosegg

Yank! is a 2010 musical by David and Joseph Zellnik, about a WWII serviceman who falls in love with another soldier. The serviceman, Stu, bolts in fear, but then meets a queer journalist for an Army magazine, who gets him assigned as a photographer. But what happens when the lovers are reunited? A GLAAD Media Award nomination, that’s what.

19. The Pride (2008)

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride premiered in the West End in 2008, before moving off-Broadway in 2010. The play compares the relationships of two queer couples — one set in 1958 and the other in the present day. In 2009, it won the prestigious John Whiting Award.

20. The Rocky Horror Show

The cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show do the
The cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show do the “Time Warp” Publicity photo

While the film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, has been a midnight movie classic for nearly 50 years, some may not know it started out as a West End musical that moved to Broadway. The Rocky Horror Show is a camp tribute to the types of movies you might see on Mystery Science Theater 3000, about a mad scientist trying to build his own hunk. The play has never really stopped being performed, and there’s likely a version playing somewhere in the world at any given time, if only as a midnight “shadow cast” performance with actors mimicking the roles onstage while the musical plays onscreen.

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