Gay Bars and Broadway: They Go Together
In the age of “Hamilton” and “Aladdin,” when shows can gross $2 million a week, gay bars are reflecting the boom with brassy Broadway nights.
At three weekly bar nights around town, gay people sing along to theater tunes, cheer Broadway drop-ins and watch drag queens do musical numbers. The combo may not be new (Splash, a now-closed club in Chelsea, hosted Musical Mondays for over two decades), but it’s certainly growing.
“Broadway and the gay community have always belonged together,” said Clay Smith, who performs under the drag name Delighted Tobehere.
Until recently, when Delighted got a lot of out-of-town bookings, Mr. Smith hosted Razzle Dazzle Wednesdays at Pieces, a gay bar on Christopher Street. The crowd of “theater queens” came to see Delighted belt Broadway standards, while the video screen showed films like “Fame.”
“Whether you just stumped your toe, had a breakup or survived the holidays with your Southern Baptist Republican family,” Mr. Smith said, “the theater can help you get away for a few hours.”
Most of the Broadway action takes place in Hell’s Kitchen and always on Monday, Broadway’s dark night.
At Therapy, a popular gay bar on West 52nd Street, a crowd of 30-something guys in pullover sweaters gathers for Stage Fright, a party hosted by the drag performer Marti Gould Cummings. Highlights have included Adam Pascal from “Rent” singing “Light My Candle” with Mr. Cummings, and Alice Ripley belting out “Sunset Boulevard” classics.
The two-time Tony winner Michael Cerveris (for “Assassins” and “Fun Home”) showed up in January, and after Mr. Cummings delivered a doo-wop version of “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic” (Mr. Cerveris was in the Broadway musical of the same story), the two engaged in some irreverent banter.
Favorite co-star? “Patti LuPone is a force of nature,” Mr. Cerveris said.
“Every guest I’ve had says ‘Patti,’” Mr. Cummings replied.
“She will cut you if you don’t,” Mr. Cerveris replied, laughing, adding an unprintable vulgarity for effect.
Mr. Cerveris then shared that “Finishing the Hat” from “Sunday in the Park With George” was his most frequent audition song, before proceeding to sing it to an appreciative audience, with live piano accompaniment.
Across the street, Industry Bar is the setting for the weekly party Diva, a slick revue starring the virtuoso singer Marty Thomas and rotating guests. Mr. Thomas said he started the event six years ago “to feature talent in their human element, not in character.”
Broadway stars can stretch here with pop songs, and last year, Idina Menzel came by to debut her new single, “I See You.”
“They freaked out,” Mr. Thomas said. “But they always freak out.”
Mr. Thomas added: “I hate when judges on those reality shows say, ‘You’re just too theater.’ I think, ‘You should be so lucky!’”
A few blocks away on 10th Avenue, Hardware Bar has a more intimate party called Broadway Mondays, in a back room, where the small stage is backed by silver tinsel and the wall video shows images from “Sweet Charity,” “Grease” and “Cats.” Now in its third year, the Monday-night party has attracted Broadway figures including Billy Porter (“Kinky Boots”) and Telly Leung (“Allegiance”).
“I missed Musical Mondays at Splash and decided to make my own so I had somewhere to go,” said Justin Luke, who promotes the party with the drag performer Sutton Lee Seymour.
On a recent Monday, the drag queen Cacophony Daniels, who is actually the Broadway actor Courter Simmons from “Jersey Boys,” sang “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast,” while spinning, belting and high kicking.
Mr. Simmons then poked fun at the live-action movie version of “Beauty and the Beast,” starring Emma Watson, who doesn’t usually sing onscreen. Mr. Simmons said he was concerned that Ms. Watson might need autotune. Beat. “But that’s just me.”
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