Fierstein at the 2009 Metropolitan Opera premiere
Harvey Forbes Fierstein
June 6, 1954
Harvey Forbes Fierstein (// FIRE-steen; born June 6, 1954) is an American actor, playwright, and voice actor. Fierstein has won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his own play Torch Song Trilogy (about a gay drag-performer and his quest for true love and family) and the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. He also wrote the book for the musical La Cage aux Folles, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical, and wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2007.
Fierstein was born to Eastern European Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jacqueline Harriet (née Gilbert), a school librarian, and Irving Fierstein, a handkerchief manufacturer. Fierstein is an atheist.
Fierstein occasionally writes columns about gay issues. He was openly gay at a time when very few celebrities were. His careers as a stand-up comic and female impersonator are mostly behind him. Fierstein resides in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Fierstein's signature gravelly voice is a result of an overdeveloped vestibular fold in his vocal cords, essentially giving him a "double voice" when he speaks. Prior to puberty, Fierstein was a soprano in a professional boys' choir.
The gravel-voiced actor is best known for the play and film Torch Song Trilogy, which he wrote and starred in both Off-Broadway (with a young Matthew Broderick) and on Broadway (with Estelle Getty and Fisher Stevens). The 1982 Broadway production won him two Tony Awards, for Best Play and Best Actor in a Play, two Drama Desk Awards, for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Actor in a Play, and the Theatre World Award, and the film adaptation earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Male Lead.
Fierstein also wrote the book for La Cage aux Folles (1983), winning another Tony Award, this time for Best Book of a Musical, and a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Book. Legs Diamond, his 1988 collaboration with Peter Allen, was a critical and commercial failure, closing after 72 previews and 64 performances. His other playwriting credits include Safe Sex, Spookhouse, and Forget Him.
In 2007, Fierstein wrote the book to the musical A Catered Affair in which he also starred. After tryouts at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in September 2007, it opened on Broadway April 17, 2008 and closed on July 27, 2008. He received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Book of a Musical, and the show won the Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Musical.
Fierstein wrote the book for the stage musical Newsies, along with Alan Menken (music) and Jack Feldman (lyrics). The musical opened on Broadway in March 2012. Fierstein was nominated for the Tony Award for Book of a Musical.
Fierstein wrote the book for a stage musical version of the film Kinky Boots with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. After a fall 2012 run at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago it opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway in April 2013. The musical was nominated for thirteen 2013 Tony Awards and won six, including best musical.
His play, Casa Valentina was produced on Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The play opened in April 2014 and closed in June 2014. It was directed by Joe Mantello, with a cast that featured Patrick Page as George/Valentina, John Cullum and Mare Winningham.
Fierstein wrote the teleplay for The Wiz Live! NBC TV broadcast on December 3, 2015, featuring Stephanie Mills, as Aunt Em, Queen Latifah as The Wiz and David Alan Grier as the Lion. The teleplay is an adaptation of The Wiz Broadway production which ran from October 1974 until January 1979.
As one of the first openly gay celebrities in the United States, Fierstein helped make gay and lesbian life into viable subjects for contemporary drama "with no apologies and no climactic suicides".
Fierstein made his acting debut at La MaMa, E.T.C. in Andy Warhol's only play, Pork. Fierstein continued to appear at La MaMa and other venues but also, having some aspirations to become a painter, enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Pratt in 1973. Fierstein appeared three times in "The Haunted Host" by Robert Patrick: in Boston in 1975, and at La MaMa and then Off-Broadway in 1991. In addition to Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles and A Catered Affair, Fierstein's Broadway acting credits include playing the mother, Edna Turnblad in Hairspray (2002), for which he won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. He later replaced Alfred Molina as Tevye in the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof.
Besides his leading role in the film version of Torch Song Trilogy co-starring Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft, Fierstein's film roles include Woody Allen's Bullets over Broadway, Robin Williams's character's makeup-artist brother in Mrs. Doubtfire, and Merv Green in Death to Smoochy, in addition to parts in Garbo Talks, Duplex, Kull the Conqueror, and Independence Day. He narrated the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, for which he won a News & Documentary Emmy Award. He also voiced the role of Yao in Disney's animated feature Mulan, a role he later reprised for the video game Kingdom Hearts II and the direct-to-DVD sequel Mulan II.
On television, Fierstein was featured as the voice of Karl, Homer Simpson's assistant, in the "Simpson and Delilah" episode of The Simpsons and the voice of Elmer in the 1999 HBO special based on his children's book The Sissy Duckling, which won the Humanitas Prize for Children's Animation. In 1994, Fierstein became the first openly gay actor to play a principal gay character in a television series when he appeared as fashion designer Dennis Sinclair in the short-lived CBS series Daddy's Girls. Additional credits include Miami Vice, Murder, She Wrote, the Showtime television movie Common Ground (which he also wrote), and Cheers, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He sang a tribute to Katie Couric on Today on May 31, 2006, her last day as anchor. He appeared as Heat Miser in the live-action remake of The Year Without a Santa Claus in December 2006. More recent television performances include an episode of Family Guy, in which he played an overweight, chainsmoking mother and an episode of the second season of the series Nurse Jackie in which he played a man whose husband is dying. He also gave the voice-over for Lily in the "Last Cigarette Ever" episode of How I Met Your Mother when she gets a sore throat due to smoking.
Fierstein returned to the theatre when he reprised the role of Tevye, replacing an injured Chaim Topol, in the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof starting in December 2009. On February 15, 2011, he replaced Douglas Hodge as Albin/Zaza in the Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles playing opposite Jeffrey Tambor as Georges, although days later Tambor pulled out, which the producers have stated was due to "complications from a recent hip surgery"; Christopher Sieber quickly replaced Tambor. The show closed on May 1, 2011 due to low box office; it played 433 performances and 15 previews.
- Garbo Talks (1984) – Bernie Whitlock
- Miami Vice (1986, one episode "The Fix") – Benedict
- Apology (1986) – The Derelict
- Tidy Endings (1988) – Arthur
- Torch Song Trilogy (1988) – Arnold Beckoff
- ABC Afterschool Specials (1991, one episode "In the Shadow of Love: A Teen AIDS Story") – Andrew
- Cheers (1992, one episode "Rebecca's Lover... Not") – Mark Newberger
- The Harvest (1992) – Bob Lakin
- Murder, She Wrote (1992, one episode "The Dead File") – Stan Hatter
- Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) – Uncle Frank Hillard
- Bullets over Broadway (1994) – Sid Loomis
- Daddy's Girls (1994, three episodes "Pilot", "American in Paris... Cool", and "Keep Your Business Out of My Business") – Dennis Sinclair
- Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde (1995) – Yves DuBois
- Elmo Saves Christmas (1996) – Easter Bunny
- Independence Day (1996) – Marty Gilbert
- Everything Relative (1996) – The Mohel
- The Larry Sanders Show (1997, one episode "The Matchmaker") - himself
- White Lies (1997) – Art hoarder
- Fame L.A. (1997, one episode "Do or Die") – Jeremy Pinter
- Kull the Conqueror (1997) – Juba
- Safe Men (1998) – Leo
- Jump (1999) – Dish Macense
- Double Platinum (1999) – Gary Millstein
- Common Ground (2000) – Don
- Playing Mona Lisa (2000) – Bennett
- Death to Smoochy (2002) – Merv Green
- Duplex (2003) – Kenneth
- Sesame Street (2004) - Himself
- The Year Without a Santa Claus (2006) – Heat Miser
- Nurse Jackie (2010, one episode "Monkey Bits") – John Decker
- The Good Wife (2011, one episode "Feeding the Rat") – Judge Francis Flamm
- Smash (2013, "The Fallout") – Himself
- The Samurai (2013) – Michael Carell
- Saturday Night Live (Oct. 11, 2014) – Himself, coaching guest host Bill Hader
- Hairspray Live! (December 7, 2016) – Edna Turnblad
- Voice only
- The Demon Murder Case (1983, voice) – Demon
- The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) – Narrator
- The Simpsons (1990, one episode "Simpson and Delilah") – Karl
- Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (1997, one episode "Thumbelina") – Mrs. Leaperman
- Stories from My Childhood (1998, one episode "Alice and the Mystery of the Third Planet") – Grambo
- Mulan (1998, voice) – Yao
- Mulan Story Studio (1998, video game) – Yao
- The Mystery of the Third Planet (1998, voice) — Grambo
- X-Chromosome (1999, TV series) – Mom/Little Mom Head
- The Sissy Duckling (1999, voice) – Elmer
- Mulan II (2004, voice) – Yao
- Kingdom Hearts II (2005, video game) – Yao
- Farce of the Penguins (2006, voice) – Sheila the panda
- Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+ (2007, video game) – Yao
- Family Guy (2008, one episode "The Former Life of Brian") – Tracy
- How I Met Your Mother (2009, one episode "Last Cigarette Ever") – Lily's smoking voice
- Foodfight! (2012, voice) – Fat Cat Burglar
- Animal Crackers (2017, voice) – Esmerelda the Fortune Teller
- BoJack Horseman (2017, one episode "Commence Fracking") – Himself
- Big Mouth (2018, one episode "Guy Town") – Old Queen
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019, TV series, voice) – The Gourmand
Awards and nominations
- "Harvey Fierstein". Jewish Virtual Library. 1954-06-06. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- "Hall of Fame: Theater veterans get a night in limelight". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 30, 2008. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- ">> arts >> Fierstein, Harvey". glbtq. 1954-06-06. Archived from the original on 2014-07-12. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- "Harvey Fierstein Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-11.
- McKinley, Jesse (2005-01-02). "Fierstein As Tevye: Sounds Crazy, No?". The New York Times. pp. 2–5.
I mean, I don't believe in God, I don't believe in heaven or hell, but I pray three or four times a day.
- "Harvey Fierstein". PBS. Broadway: The American Musical. Archived from the original on 2011-09-22. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
- "Harvey Fierstein political contributions". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
- Schlesinger, Richard (June 9, 2013). "Harvey Fierstein: No longer an activist". CBS News. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
- Nelson, Emmanuel (2003). Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 160–161. ISBN 978-0313322327.
- Cox, Gordon (May 16, 2008). "'Catered Affair' nabs League honor". Variety. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
- Healy, Patrick. "'Newsies' Run Is Now Open-Ended" The New York Times, (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com), May 16, 2012.
- Jones, Kenneth. "Kinky Boots Musical Will Kick It Up in Chicago in October, Prior to Broadway". Archived 2013-11-03 at the Wayback Machine Playbill, February 22, 2012.
- Healy, Patrick. "'Kinky Boots' Leads With 13 Tony Nominations" The New York Times, (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com), April 30, 2013.
- Healy, Patrick. "‘Kinky Boots’ Dances to the Top of the Tonys" The New York Times, June 10, 2013.
- Purcell, Carey. "Harvey Fierstein's 'Casa Valentina', Starring Patrick Page, Mare Winningham and Gabriel Ebert, Begins Broadway Performances April 1" Archived 2014-04-06 at the Wayback Machine Playbill, April 1, 2014.
- (No Author). "The Verdict: Read Reviews for 'The Wiz Live!'" Playbill, December 4, 2015.
- Snierson, Dan."Out of the TV Closet: Harvey Fierstein of 'Daddy's Girls'"Entertainment Weekly, September 30, 1994.
- Jones, Kenneth. Harvey Fierstein to Replace Topol in Touring Fiddler on the Roof" Archived 2009-11-15 at the Wayback Machine Playbill, November 11, 2009.
- "IBDB 'La Cage' Replacement Information" Internet Broadway Database, accessed August 29, 2011.
- Itzkoff, Dave. "Christopher Sieber Rushes to the Rescue of ‘La Cage’ on Broadway" The New York Times, March 1, 2011.
- Gans, Andrew."Broadway's 'La Cage aux Folles' Will Close May 1" Archived 2012-10-20 at the Wayback Machine Playbill, April 6, 2011.
- "Harvey Fierstein Awards" Playbill, retrieved May 24, 2019
- " Torch Song Trilogy Awards ibdb.com, retrieved May 24, 2019
- " Hairspray Awards" ibdb.com, retrieved May 24, 2019
- "2002-2003 Awards" outercritics.org, retrieved May 24, 2019
- "Awards" dramaleague.org,retrieved May 24, 2019
- BWW News Desk. "Drama Desk 2008 Award Winners Announced!" broadwayworld.com, May 19,2008
- " Newsies Awards" ibdb.com, retrieved May 24, 2019
- Awards" outercritics.org, retrieved May 24, 2019
- "Tony Awards 2013 winners and nominees: Complete list" Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2013
- "2012-2013 Awards" outercritics.org, retrieved May 24, 2019
- Staff. "Just the Winners, Please: Who Won the 68th Annual Tony Awards" Playbill, June 9, 2014
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Harvey Fierstein|
- Harvey Fierstein at the Internet Broadway Database
- Harvey Fierstein at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Harvey Fierstein on IMDb
- Review of Torch Song Trilogy, with information about Fierstein
- TonyAwards.com Interview with Harvey Fierstein
- Donald L. Brooks' memoir of early casting of Fierstein and commissioning and directing Fierstein's first play.