Happy Pride Month, theatremakers! This and every month, we celebrate and commemorate the LGBTQIA+ community and their many contributions to the fabric of our vibrant society. 

The creation of Pride Month itself was spurred by the events of the Stonewall Uprising – a series of protests by members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Greenwich Village, New York. When targeted police raids became violent, community members fought back, ushering in a watershed event that transformed the gay liberation movement and ignited the fight for LBGTQIA+ rights in the United States.

And while many subsets of American culture took far too long to accept members of the queer community – (and we’re still waiting on some) – theatre itself has long been a welcoming home for this community. From subtle and quiet depictions of the queer experience to out-and-proud musicals, the theatre has never been afraid to accept, include, and welcome. 

In recent years, we’ve seen an uptick in queer depictions in the media – from novels to TV shows to movies, musicals, and plays. On The Stage looks at some of the musicals and plays that brought LGBTQIA+ stories to the stage, both in history and modern culture. 

LGBTQIA+ Plays and Musicals That Made History


Debuting in 1966, Cabaret was, and remains, one of the most popular and subversive musicals to grace the Broadway stage. Set in Berlin, Germany, as the Nazis rise to power, Cabaret follows the hedonistic nightlife in the Kit Kat Klub, juxtaposing frivolity with the looming political threats of the time. However, what truly caused a stir – and great excitement from the queer community – was the iconic Master of Ceremonies character. His unabashed eschewing of gender norms created a queer icon and ushered in the opportunity for more gender fluidity in the theatre. 

The Boys in the Band

With an off-Broadway debut in 1968, The Boys in the Band came into existence long before public acceptance of queer culture. This dramatic play presents an unapologetic and frank portrayal of gay men in New York, focusing on a dinner party that welcomes a dynamic ensemble cast. While the play itself isn’t uplifting, it’s incredibly realistic about attitudes toward gay men at the time. Bitter, self-deprecating, and morose, The Boys in the Band uses honesty and brashness to shock and educate Americans. 

The Rocky Horror Show

This musical follows an innocent couple, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, as they set off for dinner with an old professor. On the way, the pair gets a flat tire, forcing them to walk to the nearest home for help. After arriving at the home of Dr. Frank ’N’ Furter – an alien scientist from “Transexual, Transylvania,” the couple soon becomes entrenched in his world and experiments. Debuting on the West End in 1973, Rocky Horror was an instant counter-culture cult classic, celebrating sexual liberation, gender fluidity, and the queer experience. 

The Normal Heart 

Larry Kramer – an American playwright, author, film producer, public health advocate, and gay rights activist – wrote The Normal Heart as a semi-autobiographical depiction of the AIDS crisis in the United States. More specifically, the play addresses how ambivalent and indifferent political leaders and general society were about helping to stop the epidemic. The play follows Ned, a gay activist desperately fighting for more awareness and public assistance in the fight against the disease. With a debut in 1985 – in the midst of the AIDS crisis – this play acted as a political wake-up call, a searing piece of social commentary, and a touching work of art. 


Following a large, eccentric family in 1970s New York, Falsettos stars Marvin, a closeted gay man with a wife and children. When he leaves his wife for a male partner, Whizzer, things get complicated and messy – until Whizzer is diagnosed with AIDS. The family comes together, putting aside their issues to rally for one of their own. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1992 to critical acclaim, earning seven Tony Award nominations. It was later revived in 2016, earning it more Tony nominations and the award for Best Revival of a Musical. Falsettos’ impact was immeasurable in the ‘90s and continues to influence viewers today with its revival, promoting nontraditional family structures, queer acceptance, and the power of community. 


Following a group of starving artists in New York’s East Village, Rent explores the ravages of the HIV/AIDs epidemic, as well as interpersonal relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual, drug addiction, and homophobia. Its 1996 Broadway debut sent shockwaves through American culture for both its frank depictions of poverty, homelessness, queer relationships, and drug use – as well as for its poignant social commentary and stunning story. A musical for the ages, Rent remains one of the longest-running shows on Broadway. 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch follows the titular Hedwig Robinson, a genderqueer singer from Germany. The child of a U.S. Army major general, Hedwig struggles with her queer identity throughout the show, which sonically leans heavily into 1970s glam rock. With an off-Broadway debut in 1998, Hedwig pushed boundaries and America’s comfortability with gender queerness, allowing greater representation of non-gender conforming protagonists. 

Fun Home

While the list to this point has primarily focused on gay and queer men and their struggles, Fun Home was Broadway’s first production with a lesbian protagonist. Even better, it was the first Tony-winning Best Musical with an all-female writing team! With a premiere off-Broadway at The Public Theater in 2013, the musical follows a lesbian artist and her recollections of her closeted gay father, showcasing just how much culture, acceptance, and queer pride have changed within a lifetime. While the musical certainly has its melancholy moments, the sense of dignity and sureness the protagonist has in her own identity ushered in a new, lighter narrative for queer stories on the stage. 

The Cake

The Cake, created after numerous “Religious Exemption” bills popped up across the U.S., follows Della, a small-town baker. Naive Della has remained politically neutral throughout her life, leaving the big opinions to her husband. But her life takes a 180 when she’s asked to bake a wedding cake for a daughter-like figure’s wedding. The catch? Her partner’s a woman, and Della finally has to take a stance. With a debut in 2019, this dramatic play aims to address many people’s political ambivalence in today’s society until an issue directly affects them. While we’ve come a long way in acceptance, The Cake shows that remaining silent means you’re complicit in discrimination. 

On The Stage

Creating great, poignant, and socially relevant art takes time, effort, and a great team. If you’re ready to elevate your productions and produce art that will wow, consider partnering with On The Stage (OTS)

With OTS, discover all-in-one performing arts software built for every stage of theatre management. We empower thousands of organizations with ticketing, box office, marketing, fundraising, and reporting tools in one robust platform – for free.

With OTS, you can expect: 

  • Outstanding Customer Satisfaction: We’ve got dedicated account managers and accessible customer and patron support available in real-time. 
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Book a personalized demo today if you’re ready to take your theatre to the next level and create history-making art.

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