Out on Broadway: The Third Coming

Out on Broadway: The Third Coming is the third installment of something I never expected to have a second installment.

Back in 1996, I put together an evening of theatre songs to be sung from a gay perspective -- no rewriting other than gender words -- and we called it Out on Broadway. OOB, for short. Without rewriting anything, we gave songs like "We Kiss in a Shadow" from The King and I, and "In My Own Lifetime" from The Rothschilds entirely new context and new resonance. The show had very little staging, no "costumes" really, and just a black stage with a piano and a couple stools. Looking back, I think my model was the original Side by Side by Sondheim.

The show sold out the run in March, so we brought it back for another sold-out run in August, with a couple tweaks to the song list.

A few years later, our cast album for the original OOB was finally being released (yes, you read that right, we made a cast album!), and it occurred to me that a second edition would be fun, so I created Out on Broadway 2000, quickly dubbed by us OOB2K. This time we did a few songs from the first show, but found a lot of new ones.

Then last year, talking about New Line's season, our associate artistic director Mike Dowdy-Windsor mentioned Out on Broadway -- could we do another one? The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Twenty-one years after the first one debuted, we need Out on Broadway right now more than thought we would. But what to call this third chapter? Of course -- Out on Broadway: The Third Coming. What else?

Anybody who's offended by the title would be offended by the show too, so...

Again, we've found a few of our favorite songs from the other two shows (like the impossibly beautiful "Everything Possible"), and added new songs that weren't even written yet in 2000. As the title suggests, we will explore religion, but the main topic of the evening is just to take a look at gay lives and gay relationships, more than anything, to reveal how much like our straight counterparts we are.

And yes, because this is a very personal piece of work for all of us, it is narrowly about the gay male experience; but just as the Japanese found such cultural resonance in Fiddler on the Roof, the very act of these five gay men singing these songs that were written for straight characters (though often gay actors) proves the universality -- both of the songs and of our lives.

When we did the original OOB in 1996, Will & Grace wasn't on the air yet, and in fact, the odious, Orwellian-named Defense of Marriage Act was passed just a month after we brought OOB back for an encore run that August. Even for our second edition in 2000, gay people still didn't have equal marriage rights anywhere in America. It's a different world now. But it's still a world that needs to hear our voices, maybe right now more than ever.

As I was going over the song list for this third edition one last time before rehearsals started, I realized there were a couple songs that didn't feel right, and I realized that with the first two editions of OOB, there were quite a few funny songs, but the overall tone was relatively serious. I had started this edition with a big wacky opening and I decided that was wrong.

Now our show will start with Jason Robert Brown's new song "Hope" (he gave us permission to use it in the show!), and then we'll go back to the earliest feelings of being Other, with the wonderful song "Mrs. Remington" from The Story of My Life. The first act of our show will (sort of) trace the life of a modern American gay man. Act Two will explore gay relationships.

The cool part is that, because we're using mostly songs that were written for straight characters, the very idea that gay men are singing them about their own lives with no alterations, proves how much alike we all are, how truly universal human emotions are. A straight friend asked if he'd feel "left out" at our show. Exactly the opposite is true. Our straight friends and families will find resonance in every song, because almost every song was originally written for them.

Which is the whole point of creating the Out on Broadway series in the first place.

I wanted a new cast for this edition. This cast we have now is more diverse in age and we have an actual married gay couple in the cast. But to connect back to our earlier work, I asked back Keith Thompson (who you may have seen as Jerry Springer in our Jerry Springer the Opera), who will be the only actor to do all three editions. He does Sincere really well.

Since we've been doing these shows, an annual event has popped up in New York called Broadway Backwards, an evening of songs written for men but sung by women, and vice versa. I still hate that word Backwards in the title. It makes it seem like there's something wrong or mistaken about crossing gender lines. It's not wrong; it's just different. Which is the point of Out on Broadway.

We've put together a terrific song list for our show. If you've seen the last two editions, you'll love what we've kept and you'll also love the new gems we've found...

I don't want to give away our song list, but I will tempt you by saying that we have songs from Hamilton, Heathers, Kinky Boots, Ragtime, The Book of Mormon, Into the Woods, Songs for a New World, Cry-Baby, Chicago, Follies, Cabaret, A New Brain, The Wild Party, Bye Bye Birdie, City of Angels, Dreamgirls, March of the Falsettos, Once Upon a Mattress, Nine, Company, The Robber Bridegroom, Ordinary Days, Tell Me on a Sunday, and that's only a partial list...

This is going to be a much faster rehearsal process than we're used to, but I don't foresee a lot of stress. It will be really easy to stage, since there will be very little staging, there's no band to worry about, no costume changes, no props. Just our five guys, Dominic, Mike, Ken, Sean, and Keith, a piano player (music director Nate Jackson, our token straight guy), and some of the greatest songs you'll ever hear, from throughout the history of our art form.

What could be better than that?

We're only running this show for three weeks, and we expect to sell out, so get your tickets now!

Long Live the Musical!