Harvey Forbes Fierstein (born June 6, 1954) is an acclaimed librettist, actor, and voice actor. He has won several Tony Awards for his work both on and off the stage, and he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2007.
Fierstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Eastern European Jewish immigrants. He made his acting debut in Andy Warhol’s only play, Pork, at La MaMa E.T.C. Soon after, in a slight change of trajectory, he enrolled at Pratt Institute with goals to become a painter, although he did not progress in this career. At the same time, he continued to perform at La MaMa while pursuing his B.F.A. in Fine Arts which he received in 1973.
His first major success was his own play, Torch Song Trilogy, about a gay drag-performer and his quest for happiness which he both wrote and starred in. Fierstein was one of the first openly gay celebrities, and, in his work, he made it his prerogative to present gay and lesbian life in drama “with no apologies and no climactic suicides”. Torch Song Trilogy proved a critical success both off and on broadway, and earned Fierstein both the Tony Award for Best Play and Best Actor in a Play. Soon after, he wrote the book to the musical La Cage aux Folles (1983) which earned him another Tony, this time for Best Book of a Musical. His other libretti include the books to A Catered Affair (2008), Newsies (2012), and Kinky Boots (2013). Newsies garnered him a nomination for Best Book of a Musical, and Kinky Boots earned an impressive 13 nominations and six wins, including a win for Best Musical. He has also written Casa Valentina (2014), a play that ran for several months on Broadway. He has even written for television, counting the teleplay for The Wiz Live! (2015) among his list of writing credits.
Along with a distinguished career as a writer, Fierstein has made a splash as an actor on stage and on screen. He has starred in several musicals on Broadway, winning the Tony award for Best Leading Actor for his performance as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray (2002). He also took over the role of Tevye after Alfred Molina in the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof and returned to the role in 2014 when he replaced an injured Chaim Topol on the national tour. His last stage venture was taking the role of Albin/Zaza in the revival of his musical, La Cage aux Folles in 2011. His notable roles on the big screen include the lead in the film adaptation of Torch Song Trilogy, a supporting role alongside Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, and a role in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. He also has lent his voice to the character of Yao in Disney’s Mulan and the voiceover for the documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. On the small screen, Fierstein broke ground as the first openly gay actor to play a principal gay character on the television show Daddy’s Girls. In addition, he has made cameos on many different shows like The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother, Miami Vice, and Family Guy.