Passing the torch in Broadway revival of acclaimed play 'Torch Song'

A new generation takes on the play 35 years after the groundbreaking original put the LGBT community in the spotlight and sparked a national conversation.
5:51 | 12/21/18

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Transcript for Passing the torch in Broadway revival of acclaimed play 'Torch Song'
What's it like to be a homosexual? You do ask the easy ones, don't you? What's it like being a heterosexual? I don't know, I'm just a person. I'm a person who sees the world in the opposite light than you do. Reporter: That was Barbara Walters and Harvey fierstein on the set of his seminal play "Torchsong trilogy." With a face like this I've got nothing to worry about. I can always drive a cab. Reporter: The groundbreaking drama about an openly gay man living in New York City. He was among the first openly gay leading actors on Broadway. The first openly gay. Yeah, but isn't that ridiculous that I'm getting all this attention because I'm the first openly gay? Reporter: Now 33 years later, it's back on Broadway. Come see "Torchsong." Come meet the family. Reporter: In this dressing room, Michael yurie is getting ready for the stage. I try to stand up 45 minutes before curtain. Reporter: Taking on the role fierstein made famous. You must have felt incredible pressure. I couldn't believe when it they asked me. Reporter: Yuri became famous as mark St. James on ABC's "Ugly Betty." Everything I could find out about Victoria Hartley. I am an entertainer. Or what's left of one. Reporter: Fierstein was involved in picking Yuri to take on his iconic role. Which earned him two tonys in 1983, making fierstein the first person to win the Tony for best play and best actor. I love you all. Reporter: The show was adapted into a feature- Matthew Broderick. You were terrific. You know, I hope you don't mind me saying so but I think I prefer you in men's clothes. Fierstein's play was the first to feature an unpoll jetly gay storyline at a time the gay community was virtually invisible. A few years ago, I wouldn't have been able to do an interview like this, probably, and even put it on the air. It would have been, this is not the subject one talks about. You could have done it. You would have had to fight your censors and all that. You could have done and it you should have done it. You know I am not the first gay star of a Broadway show. You know I'm not the first gay writer of a Broadway show. It is such a ridiculous position. Barbara had control of how that was edited. She could have made herself look good and made me look like crap. She didn't. Reporter: The play centers around the romantic life of a gay man who longed for love and a family. We've been lying in bed together over an hour, in and out of each other's arms, and you get to make a pass at me. That's not love, that's good taste. Make no mistake, he's a flawed individual. But he says things to the people he loves that are extremely courageous. Reporter: But the trauma revolves around the complicated relationship between Urie's character and his mother, who struggles to accept his sexuality. You have not said a sentence since I got here without the ward gay in it. This is who I am! No, no, no. The audience reaction now is so much more open. When the mother and Arnold get into what they get into, there's audible gasps. Every performance. No, what's crazy is after all these years I thought I lived my life for you. They can't believe these people are saying this stuff to each other. People were so frightened back then, they just sunk into their seats. The thing that's striking to me over the course of doing this play, one, how many people saw it back in the day. And it changed their lives. But more than that, I've had people write to me and say, I saw this play in Cleveland, or wherever, and Arnold was the first gay man I ever met. Reporter: One person whose life was forever changed by "Torchsong" is Ritchie Jackson, now a producer for the show's revival. One day my mother came home from spending the day in the city. I was 17 years old. She took me to this theater to see Harvey fierstein in "Torchsong trilogy." She wanted to use it as a spark to start a conversation with me. She wanted me to see a life that could be possible for me. Reporter: For Jackson, this play and the lgbtq rights it stands for are just as relevant now. Our rights are under assault. My generation fought and got us this far. Now it's time, as they see our rights eroding, the young people have to know who thearriors were.d Arnold is a perfect example of that. Reporter: F both fierste and Jackson, passing the torch toichael Urie and the next generation of Broadway actors is part of the play's importance. What loss did you have? You fooled around with am boy. Where does that come to compare to a marriage of 35 years? You think it doesn't? Oh, come on, come on. Arnold, you're not talking to one of your pals. I lost someone I loved very much. The role is his now. I gave to it him. He will direct this someday. He'll direct a production someday. 30 years from now. And he will give it to someone else. Reporter: The significance of the role is not lost on Urie, and he hopes his revival can make just as much of an impact. When you're lgbtq and you're born into your birth family, chances are they are not also lgbtq. You have to find a chosen family. If you can't find a chosen family, you have to figure it out some other way. It's much easier now than when the play originally toured. But this is a play that you can take your mother to, and you can watch this together. Are you getting shorter? Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm geo Benitez in New York. Michael Urie is taking "Torchsong" on a national tour next fall.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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