BY NAVEEN KUMAR
An exhilarating and affecting rock musical that opened Off-Broadway last night at New World Stages, bare serves up an insightful depiction of emotional truths inherent to the sprawling, messy, and often wrenching experience of adolescence.
Formerly billed as ‘A Pop Opera’ when it made its world premiere in Los Angeles in 2000 and Off-Broadway bow in 2004, bare galvanized something of a cult following, and has since seen some two dozen productions both regional and international. A highly anticipated and newly revised production arrives Off-Broadway this season under the energized direction of Stafford Arima with choreography by Travis Wall.
With book and lyrics by Jon Hartmere and music by Damon Intrabartolo (and additional songs by Hartmere and Lynne Shankel), the show tackles many of the challenges that anyone with a taste for teen movies or musicals will likely recognize as standard territory—with the obvious exception of a sensitively rendered romance between two teenage boys at its center. The hopes and hazards of young love, the thrills and unexpected consequences of sex and substance abuse, the urgent hunger for validation from friends, parents, teachers, and (in this case) God—familiar stakes because each in our own way, we’ve all been there.
The clever hand with which bare brings together the pains and pleasures of being young, and its particular focus on the trials of weathering high school as a gay teen perhaps explain why it has garnered a passionate and loyal following. Though its 2000 world premiere pre-dates several subsequent youth-driven musicals, this latest staging owes much to exceptional recent outings that have made a distinct mark on the landscape, including Spring Awakening and American Idiot, both helmed on Broadway by Michael Mayer.
The scribes present a story that’s alternately witty and quite touching, transforming what was a sung-through opera into a well crafted musical with book scenes that help carve out engaging characters. A virtuosic cast of young performers brings breathable life to a sometimes typical group of high-school students navigating their way through Catholic boarding school.
The furtive gay lovers on whom the plot centers—a sensitive athlete able to pass for straight, and a more obvious candidate for class outcast, are played with endearing chemistry by impressive newcomers Jason Hite and Taylor Trensch, respectively. As their clear-eyed sympathetic teacher (with a crowd-riling turn as the Virgin Mary), Missi Pyle (The Artist) doles out bone-dry wit that cracks like a whip.
Though the whole gang rehearsing for a school production Romeo and Juliet lends formula to the plot, it’s a suitable one—bringing to the fore the high and sometimes blinding stakes of young love and the struggle to keep it secret from misguided powers that be. Seamless integration of mobile tech and digital media in both plot and design reflect the production’s keen understanding of their indispensible influence on how young people think about themselves and their relationships.
Ultimately, bare contributes an important voice to a broader conversation about equality and tolerance, all the more compelling because its impact is both visceral and incisive. Rather than hand out neatly wrapped answers to difficult questions about faith and acceptance, the show lays bare the heartbreaking pain of coming of age in a world in which these questions need to be asked at all.Naveen Kumar is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has spent close to ten years working in the New York theatre business and recently earned a masters degree in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.You can follow Naveen on Twitter @Mr_NaveenKumar.
Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn has a new holiday album out called Tinsel and Lights. She's just released a gorgeous video to one of the tracks on it: "Joy".
Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...
To promote her new album, she has created an 'Advent Calendar' which pops open with new goodies each day of the season.
NOM's Brian Brown tells FOX News he is looking forward to having the Supreme Court "correct some wrongs that happened" in the 9th Circuit Court by taking the Prop 8 case. Elizabeth Wydra, the chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, comes on and tells Brown how the Constitution works.
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
UN Ambassador Susan Rice Laments Oppression of LGBT People in International Human Rights Day Statement
Today is International Human Rights Day and UN Ambassador Susan Rice released a statement marking it:
On Human Rights Day, we celebrate a simple but powerful declaration that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Adopted 64 years ago today, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stands as a monument to the courage of its founders and to freedoms longed for by every human being. But the fight for these freedoms—from demagogues and from tyrants, from the shackles of slavery and from the censor’s pen—did not end with the historic adoption of the Universal Declaration on December 10, 1948. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, success in the struggle “is a question of actually living and working in our countries for freedom and justice for each human being.”
Today, we pledge to live up to Eleanor Roosevelt’s inspirational example, for in far too many places human freedoms are still denied. As long as a family anywhere is tormented by a state-sanctioned killer; a peaceful agitator is hounded by a violent brigade; an artist is locked away for expressing what she thinks; an LGBT individual is harassed because of whom he or she loves; a community is beleaguered because of how it worships; a person with a disability is marginalized by those who ignore plain injustice; or a girl is threatened for having the audacity to pick up a book; all of our rights have been violated.
The United States is relentless in pursuit of a world that protects these rights. We fight for them at the United Nations, where we have made important strides, because we know that American leadership in the world can bring action against oppressors and hope to the oppressed. Our job is not done and the path ahead is fraught. But may we work together every day for the cause of human rights, so that our efforts can forge a world that respects our differences, protects our dignity, gives our children opportunities to pursue their dreams, and ensures that freedoms we have pledged to protect are universally enjoyed.
American Apparel is joining the marriage equality battle in France:
At the request of its French employees who have been eagerly following the country's efforts to legalize gay marriage, American Apparel will be giving away 10,000 Legalize Gay shirts in its stores and on the streets of Paris.
Despite support from French President Francois Hollande, progress towards the full legalization of gay marriage has faced tough opposition from religious and political groups. Recently, conservative organizations have sponsored petitions against gay marriage and proposed various exemptions in an effort to undermine potential bills. Though polls currently show that a majority supports the passing of gay marriage laws, these numbers have declined in light of strenuous campaigning from opposing groups.
Said Dov Charney, founder and CEO of American Apparel: "In America the foundation of our civil rights are written as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - in France it is liberty, equality, fraternity. Our company believes that those creeds by our founding fathers join us in an obligation to fight for freedom and fairness. Both the French and American people have a shared tradition of the pursuit of justice and we are proud to use our company's resources and give our support to this important fight."
The company has given away nearly 100,000 of the iconic shirts since they were created during the Prop 8 campaign.
Boy George and Dean Stockings direct the Supreme Fabulettes in a cracked carol (featuring a cameo by Johnny Hazzard).
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...