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‘Feminine, queer, and outspoken,’ Broadway’s Jaquel Spivey reimagines the definition of Broadway’s leading man

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Jaquel Spivey is redefining what it means to be a leading man on Broadway, and both critics and audiences are paying attention.

Hired shortly after graduating from Pittsburgh’s Point Park University to star in Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, A Strange Loop, the endearingly sassy 23-year-old has already won a Theatre World Award and earned nominations for this year’s Drama League and Tony Awards for his performance as Usher, a young Black artist at odds with his sexual identity, familial expectations, torturous thoughts, and desire to create original art.Spivey spends nearly every moment of the self-proclaimed “big, Black, and queer-*ss Great American Musical” pouring his heart out as a conflicted artist trying to decide who he is and what he wants in a world that goes out of its way to remind him that he is too Black, too gay, too fat, and not hung enough to play in the big leagues.

Rather than give up, or sell out by writing a dreaded “Tyler Perry gospel play,” Usher continues to push through, even if that means f*cking up and hurting everyone around him.Related: Unapologetically big, Black, and beautiful, ‘A Strange Loop’ has changed the face of BroadwayAs embodied by Spivey ― who stepped into the role at Washington D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company after the musical’s Off-Broadway debut at Playwrights Horizons — Usher’s aching vulnerability compelled this critic to lean in and ugly-cry his heart out.

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