Harvey Fierstein’s Life & Work Honored

Harvey Fierstein.
DAVID SHANKBONE/ CREATIVE COMMONS

Second Stage Theater, which brought “Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song” to Off-Broadway and now to the Helen Hayes Theater on Broadway, honored him at a star-studded benefit November 12 that left playwright and actor Fierstein verklempt but still able to make his audience laugh.

Choking back tears, he said, “It would have been enough for one of you to call me mama,” a role he played with so many of the “children” in his shows.

Fierstein also regaled the audience with how he stepped up the affection between the leads in “La Cage Aux Folles” when he and Christopher Sieber played them in a 2011 revival.

“We kissed and rolled down the stage with each other,” he recalled, something director Arthur Laurents had not allowed in the musical’s original 1983 Broadway production, despite being openly gay himself.

The evening’s entertainment was directed by the great Jerry Mitchell, written by Chad Beguelin (whose lesbian-themed musical-comedy “The Prom” is on Broadway now), and hosted by Michael Urie, who is starring as Fierstein’s alter ego Arnold Beckoff in the current production of “Torch Song.”

Cyndi Lauper sang “Not My Father’s Son” from “Kinky Boots,” the show she created with Fierstein. Annaleigh Ashford was joined by Paul Canaan and Joey Taranto in singing Lauper’s “True Colors.” Sieber, now in “The Prom,” recreated his number with Fierstein in “La Cage Aux Folles” by crooning the loving “Song on the Sand” to him. Gino Emnes from the German cast of “Kinky Boots” sang “Hold Me in Your Heart” from the show… in German.

Marissa Jaret Winokur, who became a star in Fierstein’s “Hairspray,” reprised a number from that show.

Clips were run from a 1983 “20/20” interview of Fierstein by Barbara Walters where he stood up to her discomfort about gay issues.

Event co-chair and longtime Fierstein friend and colleague Richie Jackson introduced him by talking about being part of “the first generation of gay men who grew up with Harvey,” who was always leading the way. Jackson praised another quote from the “20/20” interview: “I always assume everyone is gay unless told otherwise.”

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