“A Strange Loop,” winner of the 2021 Tony for Best Musical, is doing something amazing for the LGBTQ+ community during LGBTQ+ History Month. October 27, the show located at the Lyceum Theatre at 149 W 45th St., will have a Big, Black and Queer Night, a special performance of people of the LGBTQ+ community. Bob the Drag Queen—actor, comic, podcast host and season eight winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”—will host the evening and moderate a talkback for the musical creator, Michael R. Jackson, who did the book, music and lyrics. The musical, which tells the story of Usher, a big, Black, queer man trying to write a musical about being a big, Black, queer man has stunning direction by Stephen Brackett, wonderful choreography by Raja Feather Kelly and is something you have to experience firsthand. The ensemble cast members play thoughts in Usher’s mind. The cast stars Jaquel Spivey as Usher, Antwayn Hopper as Thought 6, L Morgan Lee as Thought 1, John-Michael Lyles as Thought 3, James Jackson Jr. as Thought 2, Jason Veasey as Thought 5 and also features Edwin Bates, Kyle Ramar Freeman, Zachary Myers, Jon-Michael Reese and Mars Rucker. One more member of this very queer and capable cast is John-Andrew Morrison (JAM), who plays Thought 4 and Usher’s Mother. In the role of the mother, his character is very critical of Usher for his gay lifestyle. Watching him do the role is very moving because it shows both sides of the issue. How a mother might reject the idea of having a gay son and expect him to come to God and get his life together. But, it also shows how he tries to tell her over and over again that this is who he is and she simply doesn’t want to listen.

It was absolutely wonderful to speak with Morrison about this very important role. A Q&A that follows shows that “A Strange Loop” is more than just a musical for many people. It is a chance to see acknowledgment, love and understanding for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

AmNews: As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and an actor in a musical on Broadway that shines a light on this seldom recognized community in a positive way, what does it mean to you to be a part of this show?

John-Andrew Morrison: I am so proud of our little queer show I can’t even tell you. I’m so proud to be in a show that so many fellow queer folks can find some solace in and maybe even a little bit of healing. Also, just the fact that in a time when “Don’t Say Gay” laws are being passed and Trans rights are being squashed, to have a show on Broadway with a marquee that says “Big, Black and Queer American Broadway show” feels a little bit like a statement that “oh no we are here and we ain’t going nowhere. Deal with that.” I love it.

AmNews: You play Thought 4, Usher’s Mother, a character that is very critical of Usher. What does your character represent to you and how closely do you identify with the almost hopeless struggle of LGBTQ+ youth to be acknowledged, accepted and loved by their family especially?

JAM: I am fortunate to have had a mother that was supportive, but I grew up in Jamaica and homophobic rhetoric, and how normalized it is there, was all around me constantly. There were many people who looked at me sideways from the time I was very young and didn’t even know what sexuality was. Folks kind of already damning you before you know yourself. I also understand the struggle of a parent trying to protect their child in the system they live in. If you live in a church and that is how you understand the world and they are saying that something about your child is wrong, I understand the fear and the wanting to change that because you love them. It doesn’t mean that it’s not painful to receive, but I try and find the love. I remember my mom would always say, “I fuss at you because I love you.” It’s so complicated, that relationship, but I’m glad I get to portray it and I’m glad that so many people can realize they are not alone. I think that’s really important to be able to go to a show and identify, and also see other people having that recognition. It’s powerful to know you are not alone in this experience. 

AmNews: What do you want members of the LGBTQ+ community to feel when they come to the Big, Black and Queer Night for this special evening’s performance, especially during LGBTQ+ History month?

JAM: Just come. I want you to come and just take the ride. I know they will laugh because our show is as Black as it is queer and there are going to be so many moments of recognition for them. So, if you’ve seen it before and you know what’s up, just come again and you’re going to find so many other layers and details and enjoy it on a whole other level. If you’ve never seen it, don’t try to learn anything about it, sit your behind in that seat and let us take you on a journey. But real talk, I want them to feel loved and feel how much we are doing this show just for them. We think about that every time we step on that stage, and we can’t wait to have you in the audience. 

AmNews: How has this musical changed the way the LGBTQ+ community is viewed by society? Do people come to you after the show and say inspiring reactions?

JAM: Change is glacial but change is also personal. I think we change hearts and minds one person at a time. One of the things that I’m most proud of is that even thought this a queer show, straight people, white people, Asian people, Latin people all come up to me and go, “I know those people, those people are my family.” Because the show is so specific and so honest people recognize the truth in the show and can relate it to their personal experience. So that’s one thing. The personal part is thrilling. We had a young gay Black man come to the show with his mother and grandmother and we chatted with them after on Mother’s Day. And I was like, “You brought your mom and grandmother to see this on Mothers Day?” His mom chimed in and said, “I bought the tickets.” Well later on, we got messages from that young man saying that his mother, his grandmother and himself have been having the most frank, honest and heartfelt discussions about life and their experiences, and he was so thankful. A white dad came up to me once after the show with tears in his eyes and he said thank you so much for making my queer kid feel so seen and validated. Thank you. I also had a woman who stopped talking to her family, especially her mother, come up to me in tears and thank me for helping her understand her mom’s perspective just a little bit more. But mostly people come up to me and say I was their mother and they’re a little mad at me and also a little loving with me and my typical response to them is: “I’m sorry and you’re welcome.” Come to the show and find out why.
Tickets for the evening—open to all—are available at Telecharge.com (212-947-8844) or www.telecharge.com or the box office. Special group rates are available at https://www.broadwayinbound.com/shows/a-strange-loop or 800-714-8452. For more info, visit www.strangeloopmusical.com. Follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube at @strangeloopbway.

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