Michael Greif

Tony Nominee Michael Greif on the Significance of Pride in His Life

As Pride Month kicks off, there’s much to celebrate on Broadway! Throughout June, Broadway Direct will spotlight some of the most inspiring out-and-proud theater artists working on the Main Stem. First up: 2024 Tony-nominated director Michael Greif. Greif currently has two shows running on the boards: the multi-Tony-nominated musicals Hell’s Kitchen and The Notebook. Plus, earlier this season, he helmed the critically acclaimed film-to-stage adaptation of Days of Wine and Roses. Entertainment journalist Frank DiLella from Spectrum News NY1 recently caught up with Greif to discuss his impressive body of work and the significance of pride in both his professional achievements and personal life.

You have a lot to be proud of when it comes to Broadway this season. Your three shows — Hell’s Kitchen, Days of Wine and Roses, and The Notebook — are up for multiple Tony Awards. You’re up for a Tony for your work in Hell’s Kitchen, not to mention Hell’s Kitchen received the most Tony nods for a musical — 13 nominations!

I’m very proud of that. I’m very grateful that people are responding to the vitality and the energy, but also the real heart of the piece.

Maleah Joi Moon and Chris Lee in Hell's Kitchen. Photo by Marc J. Franklin.
Maleah Joi Moon and Chris Lee in Hell’s Kitchen. Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

How did you juggle all three projects all at once? Was this the wildest Broadway season for you thus far?

Yes. This is the wildest season for me. I’ve opened two shows in other seasons, but this was a wonderful marathon. I do think each of the shows added energy rather than making me feel exhausted. As I moved through the shows, I gained momentum and confidence, especially seeing how audiences were responding to them.

June marks Pride Month. What is pride to you?

It’s an opportunity to celebrate all queer people really being able to be their most authentic selves. It’s an opportunity for families to show love and support to their gay children. And it’s an opportunity for us to understand and empathize with other people’s points of view that much more fully.

Pride is family.

Part of celebrating pride is celebrating my family and the love I have for my two kids and their two moms.

Pride is also a moment to celebrate our heroes, those whose shoulders we stand on. Who’s your LGBTQIA+ hero?

[The late playwright and activist] Larry Kramer. Larry intersects my worlds of opening people’s minds with theater and activism — also with determination and courage. I feel very proud of the times that I had with Larry.

Is there a specific LGBTQIA+-themed play or musical that means the most to you? And why?

I’ve alluded to The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer. And I also remember the first time — very vividly — when Tony Kushner shared Angels in America: Millennium Approaches with me while we were working together at the New York Theatre Workshop. My mind, of course, was completely blown by the breadth and scope and imagination of that great theater piece.

Zachary Quinto and Christian Borle in <i>Angels in America</i>. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Zachary Quinto and Christian Borle in Angels in America. Photo by Joan Marcus.

You directed an acclaimed production of Angels in America Off-Broadway back in 2010 with Billy Porter, Christian Borle, and Zachary Quinto. Was that a dream project for you?

I waited over 20 years to get to do it. I was so grateful that the stars aligned, and that Signature Theatre Company was interested in reviving that great play and provided incredible resources to do it. I knew we were going to be able to create something unique and unforgettable. And the actors who all showed up to be a part of that revival were also mind blowing.

Michael Greif and Jonathan Larson, the late creator of RENT. Photo courtesy of Michael Greif.

Looking back at your incredible body of work, I must mention RENT. RENT represents a major chapter in the history of LGBTQIA+ theater. Can you talk about being a part of that groundbreaking musical?

What I think is so remarkably unique about RENT is its wide appeal. Its friendliness. Its idealized version of a chosen family, which I think speaks to young people in the most direct way. Just yesterday I was talking to the incredible playwright Branden Jacobs Jenkins [2024 Tony nominee for Appropriate] and he said, “RENT completely changed my world at 13.” And I can’t tell you the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who talk to me and tell me what the piece meant to them at a very young, formative age. And in a way, they could see themselves moving into their adolescence because RENT showed them a way to find your people, find your acceptance, find purpose.

How are you going to celebrate Pride?

I happily live very close to Christopher Street. I’m right in Pride neighborhood. So just being able to celebrate my neighborhood and live in that neighborhood and see how that neighborhood becomes alive with a special kind of passion and excitement and celebration is really what it is for me. Loving June in New York City and loving my neighborhood in New York City.

Learn More About Hell’s Kitchen