Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song” fires on all cylinders in this Broadway revival, opening in the same theater where it premiered 36 years ago, and it’s even bigger and better than last year’s off-Broadway production. And that’s saying something considering that I was already a big fan. But wow! It is a full throttle ode to coming out, opening up, and following one’s heart.
The entire six member cast has returned and they’ve each deepened their performances. Fierstein’s semi-autobiographical account of a young gay man’s search for lasting love circa the 1970’s is amazingly resonant today, even as we’ve come so far.
That is the mark of a universal work. It speaks to us of a very specific storyline, but it sings of broader truths. And so we have Arnold Beckoff, a drag queen seeking commitment from Ed - his seemingly perfect international stud, save for one thing: he’s bisexual and there’s a woman in his life.
The show, a shortened version of the original “Torch Song Trilogy” spans nine years as we follow Arnold, Ed, Laurel, Alan - a much younger stud, and David, a gay foster teen Arnold plans to adopt.
But just as it seems Arnold’s found real and lasting love in his life, enter Mrs. Beckoff, his hardened, judgmental mother. And Mercedes Ruehl is absolutely pitch perfect. Even more than before, her facial tics alone speak volumes of a mother’s soul-killing disapproval.
Ward Horton, in the difficult role of Ed, a somewhat oblivious Ken doll, is fully fleshed out now. And he’s wonderful.
The final act, entitled “Widows And Children First” is a gorgeous piece of writing as we’re introduced to David, played rather over-the-top by Jack DiFalco, but his bond with Arnold is nevertheless quite believable.
And then there’s Michael Urie who channels Fierstein’s throaty cadence while making the part all his own…and he is awesome. On stage, most of the two and a half plus hours, he takes us laughing and crying on an emotional journey that will leave you ragged and raw.
"Torch Song" is guaranteed to touch a nerve and certainly it'll be cathartic for anyone who's ever had to explain their sexual orientation. But for those on the other side who still don't have it in their hearts to find acceptance, "Torch Song" is essential viewing.