BY NAVEEN KUMARr
Yes, she’s back: That tri-colored sketch of a girl staring forlornly off into the distance, heralding the inexorable return of Les Misérables to Broadway. Before you roll your eyes or brace yourself for another dizzying go round of the mega-musical’s signature turntable, the latest incarnation, billed as a “new” production that arrived at the Imperial Theatre March 23, might surprise you.r
Firstly, you can leave the Dramamine at home because the turntable’s been nixed. Co-directors Laurence Connor and James Powell, who toured their production internationally before bringing it to New York, have rejiggered the musical’s priorities to focus on making its epic story clear and to showcase the powerhouse vocal performances of a bracingly talented cast.r
First staged on Broadway by Trevor Nunn and John Caird in 1987, the original Les Mis ran until 2003, followed by a premature and short-lived revival of the same production three years later. Under new direction, the sung-through behemoth’s latest return will surely capitalize on the success of last year’s up close and personal big screen adaptation.r
Led by a vigorously dashing Ramin Karimloo in the role of fugitive turned everyman hero Jean Valjean, the company delivers many of the musical’s best-loved solo show-stoppers with the power of a winter gust that catches in your throat and blows your hair back. Call it the American Idol effect at its most worthy, with mercilessly few of the showy pop stylings that have been creeping steadily onto Broadway vocals.r
The story, based on Victor Hugo’s novel and written for the musical stage by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alan Boublil, remains unaltered—spanning nearly 20 years (and three hours in real time). Valjean, a petty thief with a tarnished heart of gold, is chased around early-nineteenth-century France by maniacally staunch policeman Javert (Will Swenson, in top form), a pursuit that reaches its climax behind the barricades of the June Rebellion of 1832. Everyone is profoundly unhappy and—spoiler alert!—most of them die.r
While the sprawling story requires a certain sized canvas, Conner and Powell’s production feels big but uncluttered, and more fluid than needlessly busy. Matt Kinley’s scenic design incorporates dynamic projections of Hugo’s own sketches, many with the same churning emotional vibrancy of paintings by J. M. W. Turner, Hugo’s British contemporary. Vivid, picturesque lighting by designer Paule Constabile adds both physical and psychological depth.r
But it’s robust, sensitive vocal performances by the principal company that elevate this revival above the last, and enhance the thrill of seeing the well-worn tale return to the stage from the Cineplex. Mr. Karimloo, making his Broadway debut after lauded work on the West End, delivers a particularly stunning performance of “Bring Him Home” and Mr. Swenson is likewise remarkable in a commanding rendition of “Stars.”r
With few exceptions, the rest of the principal cast is strong as well, including a fine voiced Caissie Levy has Fantine, and Cliff Saunders and Keala Settle as a fantastically lewd and sinister Thenardier duo. The production’s more modest orchestrations (the electric piano’s also been nixed) put focus on the voices, so you can actually hear the people sing—which is fortunately the best part.r
Recent theatre features...r
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Bryan Cranston Goes ‘All the Way’ On Broadway As Lyndon B. Johnson: REVIEW
Possessed Puppet Satire 'Hand to God' Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
New Musical 'The Bridges of Madison County' Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
Pulitzer Prize Winning ‘Dinner With Friends’ Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: matthew murphy, michael le poer trench)
Now that marriage equality has finally arrived in England and Wales, Elton John and David Furnish are starting to make plans to get married later this year. The two have been in a civil union since 2005.r
Writing in Attitude magazine, Furnish explains the significance of marriage to his family:r
"As something of a showman, [Elton] is aware that whatever he says and does, people will sit up and take notice -so what better way to celebrate that historic moment in time.r
"Our big day made the news, it was all over the internet within minutes of happening and front page news the next day."r
He continued: "Elton and I both think there is a massive difference between calling someone your 'partner' and calling them your 'husband'. "Partner' is such an impersonal word and doesn't adequately describe the love we have for each other.r
"When Zachary and Elijah are grown up and having children of their own, they will – hopefully – be living in a world where everyone can be equal, when being married isn't about whether you're straight or gay, but simply about being human."r
Furnish told the the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he and John plan to ditch plans for a big bash:r
“We do like big parties,” Furnish said. “Over eight years ago, we had 650 people on the 21st of December at our house in Windsor. But with the kids, everything is different. I think what we’ll do is go to a registry office in England in May, and take the boys with us, and a couple of witnesses.”r
The two plan to tie the knot in May.
Horny Toons is the kind of brilliant Tumblr that happens when the Internet and Photoshop get together and have passionate sex. It’s a collection of hot male models and (sometimes) fully-nude pornstars in erotic poses, accentuated by wildly excitable cartoon characters doing everything you wish you could — humping, licking, and literally gushing rainbows into ass cracks.
h/t Horny Toons
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“When it comes to homophobia, I think it’s a basic aspect of the human animal, which is to say we fear those things that we don’t know or understand. There’s comfort in tradition and change scares many people on a variety of levels.
"But it’s just sex. Everybody relax. All these arguments against [LGBT equality] is a bunch of flack being thrown up into the air to try to divert attention. Bigots love it when they can grab on to any kind of ‘gay perversion.’ But who are they kidding? Straights are just as perverse. We’re all a bunch of kinks, and we have a degree of kinkiness in all of us.”
The best and the sweetest Beecher and Keller kisses from the HBO show OZ
David Elliott, anchor for Biloxi's WLOX, posted on his Facebook Thursday:
"I'm all for the LGBT community's ongoing fight for equality. I support their fight in every way. But, it seems they've been in the news too much lately. Maybe they should take a short break. Go on gaycation ... just for the weekend. Enjoy yourselves!"
"Together we should be proud to live in a country judged to be the best place to live in Europe if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. But we should equally be far from complacent about the challenges that remain – and I am just as committed as ever to working with you to challenge attitudes and stamp-out homophobic bullying and hate crimes.
"We are a nation that is growing stronger economically because of our long term economic plan. But I hope we can also be a country that is growing stronger socially because we value love and commitment equally. Let us raise a toast to that – and all those getting married this weekend."
- British Prime Minister David Cameron on the arrival of marriage equality to England and Wales
|Peter McGraith and David Cabreza|
Via Sky News:
The law changed at midnight, with a number of gay couples vying to claim the title of being the first to be married in Britain by trying to time it perfectly so their vows are being said just seconds after the clock struck midnight.
Among the first couples set to take advantage of the legalisation are Peter McGraith and David Cabreza, who have been together for 17 years.
Speaking before his wedding, Mr McGraith said: "We are thrilled to be getting married. It is a mark of significant social progress in the UK that the legal distinction between gay and straight relationships has been removed. "Very few countries afford their gay and lesbian citizens equal marriage rights and we believe that this change in law will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and elsewhere, who lack basic equality and are being criminalised for their sexual orientation."
"I felt like that from a fiscal responsibility standpoint, I didn't need to be wasting taxpayer resources in a lawsuit that we weren't going to win or in an appeal that we weren't going to win. For the sake of my daughter's view on my public service in the future, I wanted to be on the right side of history."
Joe Biden, on ENDA:
"My grandkids, my children, and their kids are going to be shocked, it shocks the conscious that this very moment in American history, in some states, an employer can fire you just because of who you are, or who you love. It’s close to barbaric. I mean think about this, a man, no I really mean this. Imagine, imagine, 20 years from now, as America look back and say how in the hell could that have ever been allowed? The country’s moved on. The American people have moved on, it’s time for the Congress to move on, and pass ENDA. Pass ENDA now. Not tomorrow, now!"
Despite a number of charitable campaigns and viral news stories designed to raise awareness and spark resistance, as well as political pressure abroad, Russia continues to allow shocking human rights violations against LGBTs or anyone merely perceived to be LGBT.
Below are some of the most horrific instances of anti-gay enforcement in action. None of the aggressors below have or will ever be charged with a crime.
Last August, a video surfaced on the Putin-friendly Russian social network VK.com showing a gang of five men brutally beating a trans woman in the middle of a park in broad daylight. In the video above, she is referred to as a “homosexual,” kicked in the head and body, thrown onto the grown, and stripped of her clothes.
Gay activist Kirill Kalugin was attacked and punched by a group of paratroopers last August while standing in St. Petersburg’s Dvortsovaya Square with a rainbow flag in support of Russian LGBTs. As you can see in the video above, police intervened only to arrest Kalugin for the promotion of “homosexual propaganda,” allowing his attackers to walk away scot-free.
Ukrainian X-Factor contestant Alexander Bohun was captured by skinhead vigilante group Occupy Pedophilia in December 2013 and filmed being tortured by the extremist group’s leader, Maxim Martsinkevich. In the video above, Bohun has his head shaved, is forced to suck on a dildo and drink a cup of urine. “I was referred to as ‘pedophile,’ mocked, and forced to admit actions and desires that I have not committed in any circumstances,” he later said in a police report.
Members of the feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot were immediately beaten, whipped and pepper sprayed after staging an impromptu protest of Russian anti-gay legislation outside an Olympic venue in Sochi this February. Russian police forces even whipped and beat some who were not involved in the protest, including photographers and reporters, and subsequently arrested the Pussy Riot members involved.
Members of extremist vigilante group Occupy Pedophilia made headlines last summer when they began luring gay men to meet so they could bully, harass, and sometimes beat them — acts that are completely legal under Putin’s anti-gay regime. In the video above, Occupy Pedophilia members capture, taunt, kick, and pour urine on a 15-year-old boy they found in a park.
Two weeks after Russia’s legislation banning “gay propaganda” was passed, LGBT activists met in St. Petersburg to urge President Putin not to sign the bill into law. Demonstrators were soon met with brutal force, detained, and beaten by Russian riot police.
A video showing Occupy Pedophilia members torturing 20-year-old South African student David Smith surfaced on VK last November, prompting Smith’s immediate expulsion from Shukhov State Technological University. In the video, antagonizers can be seen humiliating Smith by shaving his head, smashing watermelon in his face and forcing him to perform fellatio on a beer bottle.
In March 2013, gay activist Artem Kalinin was assaulted and punched in the face during a television interview in Syktyvkar. Kalinin was discussing his attempt to get clearance to hold a Pride parade in the city when neo-Nazi activist Alex Kolegov lurched at him, bringing him to the ground. Kolegov was never arrested.
Last weekend, a group of homophobic thugs assembled to take down students performing in a dancing flashmob to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The performance was not related to the LGBT community in any way, but participants were attacked because they were merely perceived to be gay.
The granddaddy of all videos documenting human rights violations in Russia was compiled by Human Rights Watch early last month. The four and a half minute video above documents a number of acts that would be considered criminal offenses anywhere else in the world, from brutal assault to kidnapping and, in extreme cases, attempted murder. These things are all perfectly legal in Russia, so long as they are directed toward someone who is perceived to be “promoting nontraditional sexual relations.”
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