BWW Exclusive: GAY LIKE ME Author Richie Jackson Picks Top 10 Theatrical Experiences
Now available from Harper Collins is Richie Jackson's Gay Like Me- a poignant and urgent love letter to his son. In the new book, the award-winning Broadway, TV and film producer reflects on his experiences as a gay man in America and the progress and setbacks of the LGBTQ community over the last 50 years.
"My son is kind, responsible, and hardworking. He is ready for college. He is not ready to be a gay man living in America."
When Jackson's son born through surrogacy came out to him at age 15, the successful producer, now in his 50s, was compelled to reflect on his experiences and share his wisdom on life for LGBTQ Americans over the past half-century.
Gay Like Me is a celebration of gay identity and parenting, and a powerful warning for his son, other gay men and the world. Jackson looks back at his own journey as a gay man coming of age through decades of political and cultural turmoil.
Click here to order Gay Like Me today, and below, read as Jackson expands on the stories in the book by picking ten shows that have made the greatest impact on his life.
10. The Lion King - 1997
The Lion King was the first Broadway show we took our older son to when he was four years old. I can't tell you anything about that Saturday afternoon performance because we didn't watch the show - even better - we watched our son watch the show. He was mesmerized.
9. Love! Valour! Compassion! - 1995
One of the many blessings about being gay is the creation and cultivation of our chosen families. Our groups form often out of necessity, shunned by our own families, seeking a place to belong. Love! Valour! Compassion! beautifully depicts one such family.
8. Angels in America - 1993/2018
In 1993, when I saw Tony Kushner's Angels in America, it pointed us forward with intelligence and rage, humor and compassion. We watched that rage and fear being embodied in the staggering performances of Joe Mantello, Stephen Spinella and Ron Liebman.
Watching Opening Night of the extraordinary 2018 Broadway revival, produced by my husband Jordan Roth, the play was just as powerful as the first time I saw it and showed what a profit Tony Kushner was.
7. Falsettos - 1992/2016
When I saw the original Falsettos on Broadway, I thought "The Baseball Game" was the funniest musical number I'd ever seen, it still is. Years later, while watching my husband Jordan Roth's 2016 revival, and now as a parent, the lyrics in the song "Jason's Bar Mitzvah" resonated with me in a new way: "Kid, do you know/How proud I am?/...You hold my dreams/Kid, I burst at the seams/'Cause of you".
6. Grand Hotel - 1989
Grand Hotel, for me, represents the best of what actors can do; but also the devastation and savagery of the AIDS epidemic, what extraordinary souls we lost, and the hole that cannot be filled. Watch Michael Jeter and David Carroll in this clip and see what I mean.
5. Black and Blue - 1989
I was an assistant at Gatchell & Neufeld, a theatrical general management firm, when Black and Blue premiered on Broadway. I must have seen it four times. It was brimming with extraordinary talent including Ruth Brown, Linda Hopkins, Bunny Briggs, and Savion Glover. I was deeply moved by the curtain call, which was staged like the passing of the torch from one generation to another.
4. La Cage Aux Folles - 1983
I was a freshman at New York University and we were offered $10 tickets to see La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway. I took my mom and we sat in the very last row of the balcony of the Palace Theater. It was the first time I had heard the song "I Am What I Am," which has since become an LGBTQ anthem. But, though I love that number, "Song On The Sand" was the most revolutionary aspect for me. Two men singing a love song to each other in a big Broadway musical.
3. Torch Song Trilogy - 1982
When I was seventeen years old, I hadn't come out yet, and I got a lifeline from an ally- my mother. She had seen a Broadway show that she loved so much that she bought more tickets on the way out to take me. She told me it was an amazing play, with an extraordinary performance by the lead actor who was also the playwright. His name was Harvey Fierstein and the groundbreaking play was Torch Song Trilogy. At the end of the play, the mother says to her son (played by Harvey) that being gay is a sickness, and that if she knew he was going to turn out gay, she wouldn't have bothered.
After the show, my mother said to me, "If you ever came home and said you were gay, I would never react like the mother in the play." It was her own humanity that got her to use a Broadway play like a crystal ball and show me my future. It showed me a life that could be possible for me.
Thirty six years later, I produced the revival of this life-changing play on Broadway. And on Opening Night, I sat next to my parents, my husband and my son in the very same theater I saw it in all those years ago.
2. Evita - 1979
In 9th grade my Social Studies teacher, Mr. Shaldone, announced we were going on a class trip to New York City to see a Broadway show. He let the class vote on what show. We could see the 1979 revival of Oklahoma or a new show that was just in previews so he didn't know much about it. It was called Evita. The class chose Evita and we got to see the remarkable Patti LuPone.
1. Pippin - 1972
Pippin was the first Broadway show I ever saw, I was 7. We sat in the very first row. I was captivated, Ben Vereen was the perfect introduction to the magic of musical theatre.
Richie is an award-winning Broadway, television and film producer who most recently produced the Tony Award-nominated Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song on Broadway. He executive produced Showtime's Nurse Jackie (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for Best Comedy Series) for seven seasons and co-executive produced the film Shortbus, written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell. As an alumnus of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, he endowed a fellowship program, the Richie Jackson Artist Fellowship, at his alma mater in 2015 to assist graduates in the transition from academia to a lifelong career in the arts. He and his husband, Jordan Roth, were honored with the Trevor Project's 2016 Trevor Hero Award. They live in New York City with their two sons.