By Katie Aramento, Staff Writer
Musical theatre is once again becoming an outlet for social commentary.
Andrew Lippa, the brilliant composer of popular musicals like “The Wild Party,” “The Adams Family” and more recently, “Big Fish,” will star alongside bubbly soprano Kristin Chenoweth (who is best known for originating the role of Glinda in “Wicked”) in the new musical “I Am Harvey Milk.” Lippa is the composer/lyricist of the show, which premiered in San Francisco last year. He also plays the title role.
The show will play for the first time in New York City in a one-night only event on October 6 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to office in the United States in 1978. He had only served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for about 11 months before he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a religious San Francisco Supervisor who disliked homosexuals.
It is not only important for me to mention that Milk was openly gay, but also that he was a huge advocate for gay rights while in office. I bring this up because the fight for gay rights — what I and many others consider to be human rights — is still prominent in society today.
Let’s be honest for a second here: if the struggle weren’t still ongoing, it wouldn’t be newsworthy when openly gay men and women run for public office. There wouldn’t be 31 states that still haven’t legalized same-sex marriage and there wouldn’t be a list of LGBT public officials when I search the topic on Google. But there is, and there are. And that is why a piece of theatre such as this one is so significant — it sheds light on a human rights issue that is still ongoing, even almost 40 years after Milk’s election and subsequent death.
This specific one-night only event is actually historical and influential in itself — the proceeds from the performance will be used to create the Harvey Milk Arts Fund at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. This immensely important organization will provide arts education and resources not only to the students who attend Harvey Milk High School in New York City, but also to other underprivileged youth in need of an artistic outlet.
I cannot stress enough how influential arts education has been in my own life. Coming from a small town with a prominent music and arts department, I was never deprived of the ability to excel creatively. The funds raised from the October 6 production of “I Am Harvey Milk” gives this opportunity to students who may not be so lucky.
“I Am Harvey Milk” is definitely something to keep an eye on. We all know how successful musicals that drive a social message — or in this case, multiple social messages — can be. Consider how much we all love and cherish pieces like Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” and it’s exposition of the gay community, poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Or “West Side Story” and its commentary on gang violence. We love a story that showcases music we can sing along with, characters we can relate to and an important message that makes us feel something.
That’s why we go to the theatre, isn’t it?
For more information, go to https://www.iamharveymilknyc.com.