Harvey Forbes Fierstein
June 6, 1954
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Harvey Forbes Fierstein (// FIRE-steen; born June 6, 1954) is an American actor, playwright, and political commentator. He is best known for his theater work in Torch Song Trilogy and Hairspray and movie roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, and as the voice of Yao in Mulan and Mulan II. Fierstein won two Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Play and Best Play for Torch Song Trilogy (about a gay drag-performer and his quest for true love and family). His third, the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical, was earned for the musical La Cage aux Folles and his fourth Tony Award, the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical was earned for playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. Fierstein also wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, Newsies, and A Catered Affair. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2007.
Early and personal life
Fierstein was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York City, the son of Jacqueline Harriet (née Gilbert), a school librarian, and Irving Fierstein, a handkerchief manufacturer. He was raised Jewish but as an adult is an atheist.
Fierstein attended The High School of Art and Design, 1965–1969 and received a BFA from the Pratt Institute, 1969–1973. He began working in the theater as a founding member of The Gallery Players of Park Slope before being cast in Andy Warhol's only play, Pork.
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.
Fierstein 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 but the songs live on in Peter Allen's biographical musical, The Boy from Oz.
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. The show received 12 Drama Desk Award nominations and 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. It was directed by Joe Mantello, with a cast that featured Patrick Page as George/Valentina, John Cullum and Mare Winningham.
In April 2016, Fierstein, along with his Kinky Boots collaborator Cyndi Lauper, was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2019 Fierstein wrote and starred in Bella Bella, a one-person play about New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug. It premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage One at City Center.
His other playwriting credits include Safe Sex, Spookhouse, and Forget Him.
Fierstein wrote the teleplay for the December 3, 2015 NBC TV broadcast of The Wiz Live!, 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, 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 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, chain-smoking 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 after playing 433 performances and 15 previews.
Fierstein wrote and starred in the solo monologue play Bella Bella, about Bella Abzug. The play opened off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club City Center Stage 1 on October 1, 2019, directed by Kimberly Senior.
|1982–1985||Torch Song Trilogy||Arnold Beckoff||Little Theatre||Broadway|
|1986||Albery Theatre||West End|
|1987||Safe Sex||Ghee||Lyceum Theatre||Broadway|
|2002||Hairspray||Edna Turnblad||5th Avenue Theatre||Regional|
|2002-2004, 2008-2009||Neil Simon Theatre||Broadway|
|2004–2006||Fiddler on the Roof||Tevye||Minskoff Theatre||Broadway|
|2008||A Catered Affair||Winston||Walter Kerr Theatre|
|2010–2011||La Cage aux Folles||Albin||Longacre Theatre|
|2019||Bella Bella||Bella Abzug||Manhattan Theater Club||Off-Broadway|
|1984||Garbo Talks||Bernie Whitlock|
|The Times of Harvey Milk||Narrator||Voice role|
|1988||Torch Song Trilogy||Arnold Beckoff|
|1992||The Harvest||Bob Lakin|
|1993||Mrs. Doubtfire||Francis "Frank" Hillard|
|Bullets Over Broadway||Sid Loomis|
|1995||Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde||Yves DuBois|
|1996||The Celluloid Closet||Himself||Interview about LGBT movies|
|Independence Day||Marty Gilbert|
|Everything Relative||The Moyle|
|Elmo Saves Christmas||Easter Bunny|
|1997||White Lies||Art Hoarder|
|Kull the Conqueror||Juba|
|Three Little Pigs||The Big Bad Wolf||Voice role (short film)|
|2000||Playing Mona Lisa||Bennett|
|Unreleased||Kingdom of the Sun||Huaca||Voice role|
|2002||Death to Smoochy||Merv Green|
|2004||Mulan II||Yao||Voice role|
|2006||Farce of the Penguins||Sheila||Voice role|
|2012||Foodfight!||Fat Cat Burglar||Voice role|
|2014||Russian Broadway Shut Down||Book Writer||Short film|
|2017||Animal Crackers||Esmerelda||Voice role|
|2019||The Little Mermaid: An Immersive Live-to-Film Concert Experience||Ursula||Voice role|
|2020||Disarm Hate||Narrator||Voice role (documentary)|
|1983||The Demon Murder Case||Demon||Voice role (television film)|
|1986||Miami Vice||Benedict||Episode: "The Fix"|
|Apology||The Derelict||Television film|
|1988||Tidy Endings||Arthur||Television film|
|1990||The Simpsons||Karl||Voice role (Episode: "Simpson and Delilah")|
|1991||ABC Afterschool Specials||Andrew||Episode: "In the Shadow of Love: A Teen AIDS Story"|
|1992||Cheers||Mark Newberger||Episode: "Rebecca's Lover... Not"|
|Murder, She Wrote||Stan Hatter||Episode: "The Dead File"|
|1994||Daddy's Girl||Dennis Sinclair||Series regular (3 episodes)|
|1997||The Larry Sanders Show||Harvey Fierstein||Episode: "The Matchmaker"|
|Fame L.A.||Jeremy Pinter||Episode: "Do or Die"|
|Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||Mrs. Leaperman||Voice role (Episode: "Thumbelina")|
|1998||Ellen||Himself||Episode: "It's a Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay World!"|
|Hercules||Argus Panoptes||Voice role (Episode: "Hercules and the Bacchanal")|
|Stories from My Childhood||Grambo||Voice role (Episode: "Alice and the Mystery of the Third Planet")|
|1999||Double Platinum||Gary Millstein||Television film|
|1999||The Sissy Duckling||Elmer||Voice role (television film)|
|2000||Common Ground||Don||Television film|
|Behind the Music||Himself||Episode: "1984"|
|2004||Biography||Himself||Episode: "John Waters"|
|2004–07||Sesame Street||Himself||Recurring role (3 episodes)|
|2006||The Year Without a Santa Claus||Heat Miser||Television film|
|2008||Family Guy||Tracy||Voice role (Episode: "The Former Life of Brian")|
|2009||How I Met Your Mother||Lily's smoking voice (voice)||Episode: "Last Cigarette Ever"|
|2010||Nurse Jackie||John Decker||Episode: "Monkey Bits"|
|2011||The Good Wife||Judge Francis Flamm||Episode: "Feeding the Rat"|
|2012||Submissions Only||Auditioner #5||Episode: "Another Interruption"|
|2013||Smash||Himself||Episode: "The Fallout"|
|Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen||Himself||Episode: "Harvey Fierstein & Kim Zolciak"|
|2014||Saturday Night Live!||Himself||Episode: "Bill Hader/Hozier"|
|2015||Family Guy||Buster Keaton||Voice role (Episode: "Stewie Is Enceinte")|
|The Wiz Live!||—||Television special (teleplay writer)|
|2016||Hairspray Live!||Edna Turnblad||Television special (also teleplay writer)|
|2017||BoJack Horseman||iOvulate bracelet||Voice role (Episode: "Commence Fracking")|
|2018-2020||Big Mouth||Jerome||Voice role (Episode: "Guy Town", "Horrority House")|
|Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen||Himself||Episode: "Jane Curtin & Harvey Fierstein"|
|2019||The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance||The Gourmand||Recurring voice role (7 episodes)|
|1998||Disney's Animated Storybook: Mulan||Yao|
|Mulan Story Studio|
|2005||Kingdom Hearts II||English version|
|2007||Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+|
Awards and nominations
- "Harvey Fierstein". Jewish Virtual Library. 1954-06-06. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- "Winners". www.tonyawards.com. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
- "Hall of Fame: Theater veterans get a night in limelight". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 30, 2008. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- "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". Concord Theatricals. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
- Schlesinger, Richard (June 9, 2013). "Harvey Fierstein: No longer an activist". CBS News. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
- "1983 Awards – Drama Desk". Retrieved 2021-01-26.
- Riggs, Thomas (2007). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Gale Research Inc. p. 79. ISBN 978-0787690496.
- 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.
- "Harvey Fierstein". Hollywood Walk of Fame. 2019-10-25. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
- Contemporary gay American poets and playwrights : an A-to-Z guide. Nelson, Emmanuel S. (Emmanuel Sampath), 1954-. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 2003. ISBN 0-313-32232-5. OCLC 51088166.CS1 maint: others (link)
- (No Author). "The Verdict: Read Reviews for 'The Wiz Live!'" Playbill, December 4, 2015.
- "Hairspray Live - NBC.com". NBC. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
- "Harvey Fierstein". PBS. Broadway: The American Musical. Archived from the original on 2011-09-22. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
- Fierstein, Harvey (2014-05-16). "Opinion | What Is This Child Doing in Prison? (Published 2014)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
- Fierstein, Harvey (2003-11-26). "Opinion | You Better Watch Out (Published 2003)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
- Fierstein, Harvey (2007-04-13). "Opinion | Our Prejudices, Ourselves (Published 2007)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
- 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.
- Clement, Olivia. "World Premiere of Bella Bella, Written by and Starring Harvey Fierstein, Begins Off-Broadway" Playbill, October 1, 2019
- "Harvey Fierstein Awards" Playbill, retrieved May 24, 2019
- " Torch Song Trilogy Awards ibdb.com, retrieved May 24, 2019
- Gitlin, Martin (2014). The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time. London: The Scarecrow Press, INC. p. 50. ISBN 9780810887251.
- " Hairspray Awards" ibdb.com, retrieved May 24, 2019
- "2002-2003 Awards" outercritics.org, retrieved May 24, 2019
- "Awards" dramaleague.org,retrieved May 24, 2019
- Cox, Gordon (2008-05-16). "'Catered Affair' nabs League honor". Variety. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
- " 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 at 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.
- Harvey Fierstein papers (MS 1864). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.