9 Plays And Musicals That You Need To Watch (Or Read) This LGBTQ+ History Month

2020’s LGBTQ+ History Month theme is ‘Prose, Poetry and Plays’. Did you know that in the first half of the 20th century, you could be arrested for staging a gay play due to “obscene” content?

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No Gay plays?

Attitudes and laws have changed so thankfully that is no longer the case –  but LGBTQ+ theatre is still playing catchup to its hetero counterparts due to this unlawful ban.

So we’ve rounded up 9 plays (and musicals) that have contributed to LGBTQ+ theatre’s rich and fabulous history that are all available to borrow from Hallam Library.


Angels in America

By Tony Kushner, 1993



This Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set in New York City in 1985. The drama is divided into two parts, the first titled “Millenium Approaches” which was first performed in 1991 by the Eureka Theatre Company in San Francisco. The second part, “Perestroika” was first produced in 1992 by the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

The play touches on AIDs, sexuality and religion and interweaves fictional characters with real ones. It was a revelation, which won Tonys and inspired an HBO mini-series starring Meryl Streep.


Find Tony Kushner’s Angels in America Ebook here.

Click here to reserve HBO’s mini-series via the SHU library gateway.


The Boys in the Band


By Mart Crowley, 1968



In 1968 Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band made its debut at the off-Broadway Theatre Four for 1,002 performances and was adapted into a successful motion picture in 1970.

The play revolves around a group of friends coming together for a birthday party in Manhattan and ends with stories about long lost lovers and one character finally coming out to his wife.


Click here to reserve 1970s motion picture adaptation. 


Hedwig and the Angry Inch


By John Cameron Mitchell, 1998


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Hedwig will have you crying out for a 70s shag cut.


This rock musical about a heartbroken German-born singer who is transgender opened off-Broadway in 1998 and went on to win an Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Musical Musical.

John Cameron Mitchell’s play has inspired a feature film and Broadway revival, featuring actors like Neil Patrick Harris and Andrew Rannells taking on the powerful role of Hedwig.


Find the 2001 film adaptation here. 



Kinky Boots


By Harvey Fierstein, 2012



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Based on the 2005 film of the same name, award-winning play Kinky Boots follows the working relationship between a shoe factory owner and a drag queen with music by Cyndi Lauper (fantastic – we know).

The musical received 13 Tony nominations and won six Tonys in 2013 including Best Musical.

Kinky Boots gets extra brownie points for featuring our favourites on the West End including; Brendon Urie, Crystal Demure and Tiki Barber.


Find the original film here.



Spring Awakening

By Duncan Sheik, 2006


Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening.


Based on the 1891 German play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, this rock musical tells the story of teenagers discovering their sexuality.

Alternative rock and folk-infused rock feature heavily in the late 19th century Germany based musical.

The original production also features everyone’s favourite Glee couple.


Click here to borrow the original 1891 play by Frank Wedekind. 



The Full Monty


By Simon Beaufoy, 2013



The Full Monty made its world premiere in Sheffield’s own Lyceum Theatre in 2013 based on Simon Beaufoy’s 1997 film of the same name.

This play focuses on the real closure of steel factories in Sheffield, which inspires six former workers to go the full monty and raise some cash.

Despite being a comedy, the film also touches on serious themes such as unemployment, fathers’ rights, depression, impotence, homosexuality, body image, working-class culture and suicide.


Find the 1997 original film here. 


The Producers


By Mel Brooks, 2001


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A musical adaptation by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brook’s 1967 film of the same name.

The story focuses on two theatrical producers who plan to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop.

Complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful.


Borrow the 1967 film by clicking here. 



The Color Purple


Marsha Norman, 2005



The Color Purple musical is based on the novel of the same name by LGBTQ+ icon Alice Walker.

It follows Celie, a poor black woman in the rural South, through 30 years of her life.

Focusing on themes of violence, sexuality, love and family its definitely one to watch (or read) with a box of tissues nearby.


Find the 1985 film featuring Whoopi Goldberg here. 

Borrow the original book via the SHU library gateway by clicking here. 



The Rocky Horror Picture Show


By Richard O’Brien, 1975


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We love you Tim Curry


After its original release in 1975 Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show quickly developed a cult following in America and even had a National Fan Club and International Fan Club.

Unlike many other musicals, the film and theatre showings encourage audience involvement, with many dressing up and bringing their own props to get involved.

It’s also one of the first popular musicals to depict fluid sexuality during a time of division between generations and lack of sexual difference acceptance.


Find The Rocky Horror Picture Show film here and a 2015 live performance here. 


What plays and musicals shaped LGBTQ+ History for you? Let us know!

Twitter: @HallamLibrary

Instagram: @hallamlibrary

And find our extensive LGBTQ+ reading list here.