Marriage Equality Comes to the Great White Way

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Broadway is putting its best foot forward, this time down the aisle. After last night’s performance of Hair, three same-sex couples—musical comedy star Terri White and her career representative Donna Barnett; actor Ryan Dietz and playwright Josh Levine; and stage doorman John Raymond Barker and usher Jared Pike—were married onstage at the St. James Theater. Colman Domingo, an accomplished actor himself, was ordained especially for the event. “These theaters are our churches,” Mr. Domingo explained, “and here we are in our churches having these weddings. It’s incredible.”

The musical Hair, which tells the story of free-living and loving young people in the sixties, was an ideal backdrop for the evening’s ceremony. Matt DeAngelis, a lead performer in the ensemble cast, said of the play, “It’s always been a catalyst for social change. Theater in general is carried on the backs of all our wonderful gay friends. It’s a community of straight and gay people working together, unlike any other business in the entire world.” DeAngelis’s character of Woof, a man who insists he isn’t gay but wants to sleep with Mick Jagger, got knowing laughs from an audience full of show people who witnessed that embryonic moment in history. The cast and the creative forces behind this new production of Hair have been consistent supporters of same-sex marriage, performing at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., organizing rallies, and tirelessly fundraising. Monday’s performance was in aid of Broadway Impact, an organization dedicated to marriage equality.

The event followed the nuptials of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s staff members John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz on Sunday, 25 July, where Broadway was also very much in evidence. After the Mayor performed New York’s first same-sex marriage on the front steps of Gracie Mansion, Joel Grey sang “Married” from Cabaret, in which he originated (appropriately) the role of Master of Ceremonies, and Audra McDonald offered Gershwins’ “He Loves and She Loves.” The Gods of Broadway’s Golden Age could hardly have predicted the meanings their songs would someday carry.

Even Terri White and Donna Barnett, dressed in their Sunday best bonnets and spring suits, were overcome by the serendipity of it all. The couple had a commitment ceremony at the St. James Theater in 2009 while Ms. White was appearing in Finian’s Rainbow, but things couldn’t have been more different last night. “Now it feels like we’re married,” Ms. White asserts. “For the first time, I feel like a US citizen.”

Pictured: Terri White and Donna Barnett