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Photo credit: Tosh Wanogho-Maud in The Drifters Girl, Samantha Barks in Frozen, and Alex Thomas-Smith in & Juliet (Photos courtesy of respective productions)

Celebrate LGBT History Month with tickets to West End shows

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

February sees the annual marking of LGBT History Month in the UK. It's a time to observe lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, to reflect on gay rights, advance education, work to create more safe spaces, and to promote the welfare of LGBT+ people. LGBT History Month is usually observed in October in the US, Canada and Australia, but it's in February here - coinciding with the 2003 abolition of Section 28, a heinous law that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality".

The founding organiser of our LGBT History Month is Schools Out UK, and it first took place in February 2005. The event has three rousing taglines: "Claiming our past. Celebrating our present. Creating our future." Well-known patrons and speakers include actors Ian McKellen and Cryil Nri, activists Peter Tatchell and Stuart Milk, rugby player Gareth Thomas, politician Angela Eagle, and writer Stella Duffy.

LGBT History Month links up with the National Curriculum too, offering free teaching resources to schools, and sets a theme each year. The 2022 theme is Politics In Art, and one great way to tie into that is to visit a theatrical production that features significant queer characters, relationships or themes, or which has LGBT+ actors or creatives in key roles - allowing you to support their work and ideas, while also having a brilliant night out. Here are some of the great London shows that you can see now to celebrate LGBT History Month, and all year round.

& Juliet - 750 - LT - 080322

& Juliet

The exuberant 2019 musical, & Juliet, is the prime example of taking a traditional tale — William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet â€” and giving it a progressive contemporary twist. Instead of ending her life with her lover Romeo, Juliet decides to embark on her own adventure - at the suggestion of Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway. So, in this new version, Juliet discovers that Romeo in fact had multiple lovers, men and women, and she goes on a road trip to Paris with her non-binary friend May.

The resulting production is a joyful reclamation of the story by female and queer characters, challenging set gender roles and arguing that everyone should be their authentic selves. It's the perfect LGBT History Month theatre outing - with the added bonus of a soundtrack packed with pop bangers from the likes of Katy Perry, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Ariana Grande and The Weeknd, and a witty book by David West Read, writer on the equally queer-celebratory TV show Schitt's Creek.

Book & Juliet tickets on London Theatre.

Come From Away - 750 - LT - 080322

Come From Away

This beloved Canadian musical is based on an extraordinary true story. On 9/11, 38 planes were grounded in the tiny town of Gander in Newfoundland, and the generous locals took thousands of strangers into their hearts and homes. It's a testament to the best of humanity at the worst of times, and also a salient reminder not to prejudge others.

The characters include a stranded gay couple, both named Kevin ("It was cute for a while"), who are nervous about revealing their sexuality in what they assume is a homophobic small town. Quite the contrary: locals happily list off their own gay relations. That's one of just many such encounters in which people look past their differences and accept others - although, sadly, we're aware that 9/11 is about to make that more challenging too. Come From Away would make for a stirring and thought-provoking LGBT History Month theatre trip, allowing you to reflect on where we've come from and where we still need to go.

Book Come From Away tickets on London Theatre.

The Drifters Girl - 750 - LT - 080322

The Drifters Girl

A trailblazing African-American woman gets her due in this fascinating bio-musical. After her husband died, Faye Treadwell (played by Beverley Knight) took over management of the hugely popular vocal group The Drifters and spent years untangling legal issues, seeing off copycats and reviving the band's chart success in order to ensure their legacy. She tells this story to her daughter, inspiring the next generation.

In a salient reminder that social challenges are frequently intersectional, the show looks at the battles faced by women, people of colour and those of different sexualities. The latter includes closeted band member Rudy Lewis, a blazingly talented singer who became lead vocalist with The Drifters in the 1960s and supplied hits like "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "On Broadway" - but whose personal life is full of tragedy. If you're interested in exploring such stories from the past for LGBT History Month, while also seeing a show full of incredible music, this is the one for you.

Book The Drifters Girl tickets on London Theatre.

But I'm A Cheerleader - 750 - LT - 080322

But I'm A Cheerleader The Musical

The cult 1999 film about a teenage girl's queer awakening gets the stage musical treatment from Bill Augustin and Andrew Adams, with this UK premiere nurtured by the Turbine Theatre's MTFestUK and now granted a full run. The story centres on Megan, an all-American cheerleader whose life is transformed when her parents suspect her of having lesbian feelings and send her off to a conversion camp, True Directions. But the camp has the opposite effect: despite its strict teachings, Megan falls for the tomboyish Graham and comes to realise - and embrace - her true sexuality.

It's the perfect show to support during LGBT History Month, and a fascinating work to revisit two decades on: how far have we progressed in our support of queer teenagers and in telling their stories on our stages? With conversion camps still a cause for serious concern, But I'm A Cheerleader raises important issues through its art, exactly the ethos of LGBT History Month, while also offering a funny, heartfelt night of entertainment.

Book But I'm A Cheerleader: The Musical tickets on London Theatre.

Cinderella - 750 - LT - 080322

Cinderella

Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical takes a well-known fairy tale and, with the help of a book from Oscar winner Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and lyrics from David Zippel (City of Angels), vigorously reshapes it for the 21st century. This Cinderella is a sarcastic, Doc Marten-wearing outsider who detests the way that her hometown of Belleville and its primped inhabitants only care about appearances. She's more interested in who people really are and who they truly love.

That message is carried through the story, climaxing with a joyous celebration of the love between two queer characters - exactly what you want from your LGBT History Month theatre production. Cinderella is a show with positive takeaways for audiences of all ages, as we see not just a challenge to the traditional Disney prince and princess model, but relatable ideas around body image, the pressures of strictly defined gender binaries, and putting up a façade in order to fit in. Authenticity, this musical argues, is the key to happiness.

Book Cinderella tickets on London Theatre.

Frozen - 750 - LT - 030322

Frozen

Although the Disney juggernaut, now a spectacular stage musical, doesn't overtly feature any queer characters, there is a long tradition of the LGBT+ community interpreting and identifying with the subtext of pieces of art. That's definitely the case with the empowering story of Elsa, who is so terrified of people discovering her secret that it hampers her relationship with sister Anna and actually causes harm - but who is liberated by finally embracing her true self instead of fearing it. The incredible anthem "Let It Go" has been embraced by many LGBT+ fans as a celebration of coming out.

The theatrical version develops some of those related themes in complex and thoughtful ways, giving us more insight into Elsa's headspace and her dynamic with Anna through new songs and stirring performances. It's also a magical family theatre trip which will thrill and inspire young Frozen fans, so there's something for everyone in this LGBT History Month London outing.

Book Frozen tickets on London Theatre.

Photo credit: Tosh Wanogho-Maud in The Drifters Girl, Samantha Barks in Frozen, and Alex Thomas-Smith in & Juliet (Photos courtesy of respective productions)

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