It's Today! : 'Torch Song' Tribute

Ward Horton, Jack DiFalco, Michael Urie & Mercedes Ruehl in "Torch Song" off-Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Ward Horton, Jack DiFalco, Michael Urie & Mercedes Ruehl in "Torch Song" off-Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Pat Cersaro

Few actors are as immediately recognizable as gravel-voiced Harvey Fierstein. Blazing upon the entertainment scene in Andy Warhol's PORK, Fierstein appeared throughout the 1970s in a number of productions at legendary avant garde theatre venue La MaMa. Yet, it was with his breakthrough as a playwright that Fierstein embarked on the estimable career trajectory he is rightly celebrated for today. His first play, INTERNATIONAL STUD, was first presented in 1978 at La MaMa, followed up with a full-out Off-Broadway iteration later that year. Next came FUGUE IN A NURSERY in 1979, also at La MaMa. It was at this point that Fierstein was struck with the brilliant idea to combine the two plays and add a third, titled WIDOWS AND CHILDREN FIRST!, into what became the four-hour evening now known as TORCH SONG TRILOGY.

Wowing both crowds and critics in its Broadway debut, Fierstein's LGTB-themed story of a drag queen and his various lovers, his son and his mother, was quite unlike anything previously seen on the Great White Way. A seminal work whose impact is still reverberating through art and culture to this very day, TORCH SONG TRILOGY is unquestionably one of the most important and influential plays of the last 50 years. The original 1982 Broadway production, directed by Peter Pope and starring Fierstein alongside Joel Crothers, Paul Joynt, Matthew Broderick and Estelle Getty was an immediate smash hit, taking home Tony Awards for Best Actor and Best Play and running more than 1200 performances. A West End iteration headlined by Anthony Sher was also well-received, with numerous international productions and revivals following ever since. Subsequently, in 1988, a feature film of a significantly consolidated adaptation of the play hit the big screen showcasing Fierstein and Anne Bancroft in the central roles.

Most recently, Fierstein has revisited the text once again with fresh eyes and crafted a new streamlined version of the play, simply titled TORCH SONG, which enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run before transferring to the Hayes Theater earlier this year. Led by Michael Urie and Mercedes Ruehl, the Moises Kaufman-directed revival announced this week that it will end its run on January 6.

For those not intimately acclimated to the potent and poignant content of the powerful play - or, even if you are already aware of its myriad attributes - now is absolutely the time to be won over by its considerable charms and humongous heart.