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Sex on the Stage

Exploring a brief history of Broadway’s sexy times.

By Arts & Culture

Illustration courtesy of Sacha Lusk.

Since Broadway could Charleston, it’s been singing about sex. From leggy chorus girls to the modern adaption of “Spring Awakening,” musicals give us a little more to talk about within the realm of a good fuck.

“Cabaret” first premiered in 1966. The show centers around Sally White, a performer of Cabaret in Nazi-era Germany. She falls in love with Cliff Bradshaw, an American writer. The striptease bar is hosted by a lanky and flamboyant young emcee. In Act One, the emcee is in Paris, and finds himself staying with two women. They all croon of threesomes in the hotel during the number “Two Ladies:”

EMCEE: We switch partners daily / To play as we please.

GIRLS: Twosies beats onesies,

EMCEE: But nothing beats threes. / I sleep in the middle,

GIRL 1: I’m left,

GIRL 2: And I’m right,

EMCEE: But there’s room on the bottom if you drop in some night.

After its debut, the show was an instant success, becoming one of the first sex-forward showtunes of our time while motivating more lusty spectacles, namely “The Rocky Horror Show,” which first debuted on stage in 1973.

Newlyweds Janet and Brad are stranded after their car breaks down. They enter the home of Dr. Frank N. Furter to look for assistance, but are pushed into a sequence of rock burlesques and sensualities. Dr. Furter is an alien, self-described “sweet transvestite,” who creates a Frankenstein-like sex doll named Rocky Horror — all the while corrupting and engaging in sexual endeavors with both Brad and Janet. In “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me!” Janet sings lustfully about wanting to be intimate with Rocky after experiencing a mostly G-rated sexual relationship with Brad. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the film adaption that came out that same year, was just as equally terrible — a sexy thrill.

Rushing eagerly into 1982 is “Little Shop of Horrors.” Our antagonist is Orin, a dentist who receives great joy from inflicting pain on his patients. The joy, however, is sensual. As he reaches in to pluck a poor wisdom tooth, he moans with pleasure. He sings of it in the tune “Dentist!”

ORIN: I am your dentist.

PATIENT: Fitting braces.

ORIN: And I get off at the pain I inflict!

“Falsettos” aired on Broadway in 1992. It entails of a ex-husband and current father Marvin boning his boyfriend Whizzer Brown, and his mother and son going to therapy because of it. In “Unlikely Lovers,” Marvin sings to Whizzer.

MARVIN: Who’d believe us two would end up as lovers?

WHIZZER: Do you want me to reply?

[MARVIN]: Him and me, you and I / Passionately lovers!

As the turn of the century gained momentum, Broadway was welcoming sex with open arms. The 2000s has some of the hottest and most alluring musicals to date. “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” features our 20th president as a sexy-hot emo rocker who wears his pants too tight. The show’s tagline? “History just got all Sexy-Pants.” SpotCo designed the musical’s poster, explaining that “Jackson showed his ass to America, and the Americans loved it. But what if Andrew Jackson also happened to be a rockstar who was like, really hot? Then you have yourself one hot rock show.”

Jackson was played by the beloved Benjamin Walker, who also played Patrick Bateman in the 2016 “American Psycho” musical —another soundtrack so lustful you need a moment to regain composure. 

“American Psycho” is based off of Brett Easton Ellis’s infamous novel of the same name, and revolves around serial killer Patrick Bateman, who loves to hate and loves to fuck. One song, “Hardbody/Hardbody Medley,” is quite literally, half orgasmic. One lyric:

MEN: We like them like that /  We like them like that / We like hardbodies. / When she gets wet, she won’t be haughty.

Patrick, in the midst of the song, is in the middle of having sex with his girlfriend’s best friend. Both naked and covered in sweat, this musical doesn’t just gesture towards intercourse; it presents it in one long thrust. Duncan Sheik composed the score alone in his studio — layers of hot, steamy synth that feel like a love ballad tribute to the 1980s.

Not being the only ardor score he’s created, “Spring Awakening” is another musical that gives us a little one-on-one time. First premiering on Broadway in 2006, “Spring Awakening” revolves around three themes: youth, sex, and youths having sex. In its first opening, the poster was of a boy mounting a girl — ready in position. The main characters are Wendla and Melchior, two German school kids in the late 1800s. The discovery of each other’s desire becomes their growth, and downfall. In the song “Touch Me,” all the females and males within the schools sing of their sexual frustrations and questions regarding the fact. Moritz is Melchior’s best friend, and is nervous about the topic. In his anxiety, he runs away from the discussion:

MORITZ: Still, regarding the anatomies, it truly is daunting…how everything

MELCHIOR: Measures up?

MORITZ: Not saying I wouldn’t…wouldn’t ever want to…you know…


MORITZ: I need to go.

MELCHIOR: Moritz, wait!

CHORUS: Oh touch me, just like that.

To say sex in Broadway has just started, or that the preceding discussion entailed all of it, would be anticlimactic. Broadway, in a sense, has always been about sex. From long-kicking Rockettes to Patrick Bateman faux-fucking a woman in the middle of a stage, Broadway is what’s hot. It’s a theme that keeps on coming, even after the grand finale.

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