Best Gay Musicals of All Time

In honour of Pride month, we take a look at some of the best musicals, featuring gay themes, characters and LGBTQ+ content.

  1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998)

A headlong blast of queer energy, Hedwig is the ultimate antibinary musical, dissolving boundaries—between male and female, cis and trans, rock and roll and musical theater—in a messy, cathartic and ultimately joyful public struggle with questions of acceptance, control and self-love. The defiantly vulnerable East German glam rocker named Hedwig lands in Middle America after a sex-change operation. The musical follows him closely in the form of him, giving a concert to the audience.

2. La Cage Aux Folles (1983)

This was the first Broadway musical to put a gay character in the centre stage and quite the big LGBTQ win! Adapted from a French stage comedy and film, the musical follows a tempestuous relationship between the manager and star of a Saint-Tropez nightclub that specializes in glitzy drag shows.Same-sex central romance which is tuneful, touching, tacky and bedazzling.

3. A Strange Loop (2019)

A musical about queer Black identity that’s also a winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The musical-theatre auteur Michael R. Jackson takes a deep dive, often barely coming up for breath, into a whirlpool of ambition and frustration as his alter ego—a would-be musical dramatist named Usher—struggles to define himself in a maelstrom of sex, race, family, body shame, religion and entertainment.

4. Falsettos (1992)

An intimate, obstinate, heartbreaking about a middle-class Jewish man who leaves his wife and son for a male lover in the early 1980s. The first half premiered in 1981 and explored the toxic masculinity theme. The second half that came out in 1990 explores the literal toxicity of HIV. William Finn and James Lapine treat the audience to a moving collection of songs: sparky, wrenching and sweetly romantic, with frequent enough twists of melody and phrase to resist the maudlin. As the show’s fractured blended family comes together in the face of grief, Falsettos guides us through a scarred but healing depiction of collective loss and purpose.

5. Rent (1996)

A defining musical that reshapes the Puccini opera La Bohème, turning it into a passionate rock-pop tableau of creative artists in the East Village.Of the eight main characters, half are LGBTQ+, at least half are living with HIV, and a majority are usually cast as nonwhite. Although Larson’s tragic death on the eve of the show’s 1996 premiere at New York Theatre Workshop left the show unpolished in places, Rent became a sensation, winning a Pulitzer and transferring to Broadway for a 12-year run. While the musical includes moments of overt activism (“ACT UP! Fight AIDS!”), it’s the show’s overall embrace of unity and community—“Measure your life in love!,” urges the soloist in the soulful showstopper “Seasons of Love”—that resonates most powerfully 25 years later.

Happy Pride Month!

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