16 of the Gayest Musical Theatre Songs That Aren’t Actually Queer

Over the holiday break, instead of listening to nothing but Christmas music, I decided to mix in some showtunes to keep things fresh. I’ve been a musical theatre nerd my entire life; my Gram passed it down to my mom, who passed it down to me. I listen to everything from oldies like Cole Porter to newer shows like the Max Martin musical, & Juliet. And the thing that I noticed is how many songs just have this undercurrent of queerness running through them.

In the last 40 years, we’ve gotten musicals that are explicitly queer, like La Cage Aux Folles, Fun Home, and The Prom, musicals have always had queer people at the helm and behind the scenes. When I think about songs that are written for not queer characters but should be, here are a small sampling. Honestly, I could have added more Sondheim, but I had to stop myself.


I’m Still Here – Follies

There’s something about a song of survival that really screams “queer” to me. The character is a middle-aged actress who has held just about every entertainment job, as you hear in the song. The best version is sung by Elaine Stritch. Here’s a video of her singing it at Sondheim’s 80th birthday celebration.


The Rum Tum Tugger – Cats

The Rum Tum Tugger is a pansexual icon, I don’t make the rules. This song proves my point, but only if you forget the movie ever existed. “He will do as he do do, and there’s no doing anything about it.”


Don’t Rain on My Parade – Funny Girl

You can’t get much more queer than a song originally sung by Barbra Streisand. It’s loud, boisterous, and full of zeal. It screams drag brunch.


For Good – Wicked

I didn’t think of this one, but once my partner suggested it, I knew she was right. This song is about a relationship that had an impact on you and made you different in a good way. I can see it being sung on dyke night at the piano bar for sure.


Magic to Do – Pippin

This musical is weird af, but this song has just the right amount of musical theatre pizazz and a buzzy 1970s style. As soon as it starts, you instantly break out into jazz hands.


Ladies Who Lunch – Company

If you don’t think the lyric “Does anyone still wear a hat” is queer, I don’t know what to do with you. IT IS.


Nobody’s Side – Chess

Nothing says “queer but actually straight” more than something created by any member of Swedish pop group ABBA. Chess has music and lyrics by the two male members of the group. This song is all sorts of 80s queer, especially the music video featuring Elaine Paige.


Loving You – Passion

Yet another Sondheim ditty. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a queer woman who has the lyrics “Loving you is not a choice, it’s who I am” written in a notebook or on an online dating profile.


Maybe This Time – Cabaret

I didn’t think of this song as queer until I saw Emily Hampshire sing it in the Cabaret episode of Schitt’s Creek. A woman on the precipice of something who believes that “maybe this time I’ll win”? Gay.


Waving Through a Window – Dear Evan Hansen

Being an outsider is a feeling queers know all too well. This is the ultimate contemporary musical theatre song about being an outsider.


The Phantom of the Opera – The Phantom of the Opera

An 80s synth and that epic opera high note? Say less. It’s just really fucking gay.


Empty Chairs at Empty Tables – Les Miserables

In the musical, Marius sings this song after all his friends are killed in battle. If you relate it to the time when the musical was released, AIDS was ravaging the LGBTQ community. I don’t think the parallels are intentional, but now I can’t unthink it.


Bosom Buddies – Mame

Queer women love Bea Arthur and Angela Lansbury. As the queer best friend who often tells the truth, this song hits home.


Monster – Frozen

A lot of people want Elsa to be queer, and I am convinced that she absolutely is based on this song from the stage musical (and the songs she sings in Frozen 2 but that’s a whole different story.)


Send in the Clowns – A Little Night Music

Longing for the person you once had? Pining for the love that used to be? Gay.


The Telephone Hour – Bye Bye Birdie

No one loves gossip more than the queers. A whole story gossiping about your straight bestie who is now dating some dude? We love to see it.


Take a listen to all of the songs on this list:


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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 30 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. I would’ve gone with “What Is This Feeling?” for gayest Wicked song but really the entire thing is kind of a gold mine.

    Wicked actually is queer though, even if it’s enough of an edge case that I think it should still count for this list. The writer of the books has said that it’s canon that they had feelings for each other, and a bunch of performers, including the best known Glinda and the best known Elphaba, have said that they were playing the characters that way on purpose. It isn’t in the text exactly, and both have more overt crushes on a guy who one of them ends up with, but yeah they’re bi (except book Glinda might be gay – the books are very different and don’t have that love triangle at all).

  2. A real oldie (1953) is Leonard Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town.” I forget the context, but it has an early song about all the wonderful things you can do on Christopher Street, including marking your towels “hers” and “hers.” I have always wondered just how coded Bernstein meant that to be…

  3. One of my audition songs is Losing my mind from Follies and I can tell you that song is super queer.

    “The sun comes up, I think about you
    The coffee cup, I think about you
    I want you so, it’s like I’m losing my mind
    The morning ends, I think about you
    I talk to friends and think about you
    And do they know it’s like I’m losing my mind?
    All afternoon doing every little chore
    The thought of you stays bright
    Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor
    Not going left, not going right
    I dim the lights and think about you
    Spend sleepless nights to think about you”

  4. I will have to disagree with your pick from dear Evan Hansen. You can’t tell me waving through a window is more low key gay them for forever or sincerely me. When I first heard for forever I legit thought I was listening to a dude talk about some mind blowing date with another dude.

  5. Hear me out though: Bosom Buddies is queer, and it’s queer subtext specifically! a)Jerry Herman, who wrote the music & lyrics, was gay b) they compare themselves to Alice B Toklas & Gertrude Stein c)a lot of lesbians used to use these labels in public so their PDA could be accepted. Example: “Hey mister, she’s my sister” in Rent. A lot of historians even today call lesbian couples these labels instead of acknowledging the romantic relationship. d) In the movie Auntie Mame, there is a background couple meant to look like Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge.

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