Whether by accident or design, Tony-nominated musical star Beth Malone has become the leading lesbian on Broadway and beyond.
“I have been out my entire career, but it’s been a cheat, though. Because I’ve been in communities where it was not a thing,” said Malone, who was born in Nebraska and grew up in rural Colorado but now mostly lives and works in big cities.
On Saturday night, Malone performs her autobiographical “musical journey” titled “Beth Malone: So Far” at the Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road. Her audience will likely include plenty of other LBT women — the show is part of the annual Aqua Girl festival on South Beach, benefiting Aqua Foundation for Women, a South Florida group that raises money for scholarships and women’s wellness projects.
Malone is best known for her Tony-nominated starring role as lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel in the Broadway hit “Fun Home,” based upon Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name.
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“I was doing ‘Fun Home,’ and every day at the stage door the kids lined up. I mean kids. Children. High school kids who were telling me ‘Fun Home had saved my life,’ ” Malone said.
Some youngsters came out of the closet after seeing “Fun Home,” Malone said.
“My parents are standing behind me, and I’m going to tell them tonight,” one kid confided to her outside the theater.
LGBTQ youths embraced the show and Malone. “ ‘Fun Home’ found them. The magic of the internet. The kids found the show and made the pilgrimage from Cheyenne, Wyoming.”
Caitlin Wood, executive director of Aqua Foundation for Women, said she saw “Fun Home” on Broadway — twice.
“I’m a big fangirl,” Wood said. “She was incredibly realistic. An incredible voice and an amazing presence on stage.”
Malone made her Broadway debut in “Ring of Fire,” a 2006 jukebox musical based on the songs of country legend Johnny Cash. About that time, she began to think about “So Far.”
“I was in my 30s, and I thought maybe this was it for me,” Malone recalls. “I wasn’t even sure of the audience when I was building it. And the audience found it afterward.”
Malone, 47, describes “So Far” as “an autobiographical tale about what it was like for me to be a rural lesbian in the ’70s, growing up in a ranching community in Colorado, not even understanding that gay was a thing — all the horrible and embarrassing personal catastrophes you go through when you’re a kid.”
Much of “So Far” takes place during Malone’s teens and young adulthood. “If you’re in your 30s, 40s — or if the ’80s were a big part of your upbringing — you’re going to get a lot more of the jokes, I must say.”
She co-wrote “So Far” with playwright Patricia Cotter and says the show was co-conceived by producer Peter Schneider and musician Susan Draus.
Malone has been with wife Rochelle Schoppert for 24 years. “Married unofficially since 1997. Got married in 2013, officially and legally,” Malone said. “We got married in New York City. First, we got married in Aspen, Colorado, in this hippy dippy wedding, before it was cool and trendy — and before it was legal, for sure.”
This summer, Malone will star as Titanic survivor Margaret Brown at The Muny in St. Louis in a new production of Meredith Willson’s “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” which starred Tammy Grimes on Broadway in 1960 and Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 film. Tony winner Kathleen Marshall (“Wonderful Town,” “The Pajama Game” and “Anything Goes”) will direct and choreograph, and Malone hopes the revival will eventually transfer to Broadway.
Despite her busy schedule, Malone estimates she performs about 50 benefits a year, often for LGBTQ groups and nonprofits.
Last November, she sang at the annual National LGBTQ Task Force Gala in Miami Beach.
“I try to balance it out. I don’t do everything for free. I do as much as I can to fulfill my humanitarian efforts,” Malone said. “And because it’s such a labor of love for everybody in the community … the pressure is just enormous. Benefits are one-shot deals and they’re very important to the people involved.”
If you go
What: “Beth Malone: So Far”
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach
Tickets: $49 general admission; $109 VIP priority seating and cocktail reception with Malone after the show. Purchase at http://bit.ly/2r8pKfD.