Sing OUT, Louise: The Essential LGBTQ Love Songs, NMT Style
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been spending the month of June fully immersed in Playbill Pride, Playbill’s celebration of the achievements and representation of the LGBTQ community in the theater. In addition to transforming its iconic banner from yellow to rainbow, the Broadway-synonymous publication is also featuring on its website numerous articles detailing the importance of LGBTQ characters and creators in Broadway plays and musicals.
As I clicked through a recent feature, “The Essential LGBTQ Love Songs,” I was struck by how few of the songs were from truly contemporary musicals. Yes, rock musicals Rent and Hedwig and the Angry Inch were represented, but only three of the ten songs listed come from musicals written post-2000, with two of those three coming from freshly-minted best musical Fun Home. So for this week’s blog post I’ll attempt to build upon the wonderful list begun by Ben Rimalower, listing my favorite contemporary MT songs with a gay twist.
Stupid Boys (Ryan Scott Oliver)
A delightfully comedic song with a delightfully comedic performance from Andrew Keenan-Bolger, “Stupid Boys” is the song to listen to when you’re feeling frustrated with the game…but can’t get yourself to stop playing. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it knows how hard it can be to fall for someone new—but how exciting it can be, too.
Just True (Yank!)
For a contemporary MT song with an older-school MT sound, you can’t go wrong with “Just True” from Yank!, a wonderful little show about two gay soldiers that deserves to be seen by a much larger audience. I love the lyric “If they can see us, it means that we can too”; it’s such a succinct commentary on how recognizing LGBTQ rights can lead to a happier world for everyone.
Bare (bare: A Pop Opera)
How can I write about contemporary, gay musical theater and not include bare? Like many others, I fell in love with this show in 2007 with the release of the studio cast recording, primarily for its complex, haunting, and nuanced portrayal of the relationship between Peter and Jason, two gay high school students at a Catholic boarding school. The title song serves as their final declaration of love prior to (spoiler alert!) Jason’s suicide, and remains one of my favorite gay duets in musical theater.
Open Road (Glory Days)
It’s, somewhat surprisingly, rare to stumble upon a musical theater song—contemporary or otherwise—that so openly and unabashedly chronicles a flourishing gay relationship, which is what makes “Open Road” so noteworthy. It’s a wonderfully crafted exploration of one man awakening to his true sexuality, and finding someone to share that with in the process.
Expectations of a Man (Forward)
As has been pointed out in light of Fun Home’s recent success, strong representations of lesbians and lesbianism are severely lacking in musical theater. Perhaps this is one reason why I find “Expectations of a Man” so enjoyable. It’s a contemporary MT song, both sweet and comedic, that explores how we stumble into our sexuality, and it can be a real knockout in performance.
Halfway (Rated RSO)
I know I’ve already included an RSO song on this list, but I couldn’t let this post be published without the inclusion of “Halfway.” And while this is less a gay-centric duet than it is a meditation on the joys and the difficulties of a long-distance relationship, this performance by Jay Armstrong Johnson and Morgan Karr is so electric that it really highlights the longing these characters are feeling.
Not My Father’s Son (Kinky Boots)
This song is a bit different from the others on this list, as it deals less with homosexual love and more with accepting homosexuality as an identity and a source of pride. And unlike some of these other songs, it’s a tearjerker—Cyndi Lauper paints a devastating picture of Lola/Simon’s inner turmoil as s/he was growing up and wrestling with her/his identity, proving that she truly deserved her Tony Award in 2013.
What are your favorite contemporary musical theatre LGBTQ love songs?
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