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New Musical ‘Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story’ Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW

Piece

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

No one can claim a shortage of Broadway musicals about Brill Building artists who became household names—between them, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Jersey Boys) and Carole King (Beautiful) have the Baby Boomer market cornered—so it seems fitting that Piece of My Heart, an engaging and surprisingly sexy new musical about lesser-known chart-topping songwriter Bert Berns, opened on a more modest scale Off Broadway Monday, at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

Piece2Writer of ubiquitous ‘60s hits like “Twist and Shout” and “Cry Baby,” Berns didn’t attain the notoriety of some of his peers, perhaps due to his early death from a heart condition at age 38. With two of his children as lead producers, the new musical tells the story of Berns’ career and his surviving family’s conflict over promoting his legacy.

Berns’ daughter Jessie (Leslie Kritzer) is called to New York City by her dad’s old friend and manager Wazzel (Joseph Siravo), warning her that Berns’ catalogue is in danger of being sold off for a lump sum by her mother (Linda Hart). Predictably, in dad’s Brill Building office, Jessie discovers who her father really was, herself by extension, and finally confronts her mother.

Piece4While its underlying plot is only slightly more original than the E! True Hollywood Story blueprint of its Broadway predecessors, Daniel Goldfarb’s book steers the show, rather than taking a backseat to showcasing the songwriter's hits. Instead of a litany of studio sessions or live performances, Berns’ songs are, for the most part, integrated into the musical’s several love stories. And because much of his music is about different stages of love, the formula works quite well.

Playing a relatively unknown, behind-the-scenes artist is a different kind of challenge from playing an icon, and Zak Resnick’s pitch perfect performance proves he has the makings of a star himself. His voice is both sweet and strong, and he manages to bring a modern sort of sex appeal to Berns that’s rare and refreshing to see in a jukebox musical.

Piece3Director-choreographer Denis Jones hints toward the decade of sexual excitement the songs portend, rather than their author’s achy-breaky heart—to fine affect. While dance numbers pay homage to the decade’s musical mix of styles, Jones forgoes nostalgia for originality and brings a carnal energy to songs otherwise known for being saccharine, if not exactly chaste.

Unlike most artists who die young, Berns knows his heart condition will lead to an early death, fueling his drive to succeed. His story (despite being true) is a potential minefield of clichés that the production for the most part successfully avoids. Maybe because its producers have their father’s legacy as their primary concern, Piece of My Heart stays focused on telling Berns’ story and making his songs sound their best, rather than pleasing the crowd—though it does that, too.  

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:jenny anderson)


New York Young Republican Club Writer Rants About Gay Flags, Suddenly Resigns

William Palumbo

The New York Young Republican Club has a problem with the gay flag. Specifically, the site's head of "Blog" William Palumbo took severe offense at the "gay/LGBTQ(RSTUVWXYZ)" pride flag being flown at U.S. embassies in London and Tel Aviv, so much so that he wondered if it were an impeachable offense. Yes, really.

Can I pose a serious question?  At what point does replacing the American flag with the rainbow flag, a symbol of gay/LGBTQ(RSTUVWXYZ) pride from embassies abroad become an impeachable offense in itself?

Concerned that the U.S. is becoming "the United States of Gaymerica", Palumbo went on to condemn gay ambassadors that have been sent abroad in the past.

This administration has a record of placing gay ambassadors in countries where they are not welcome. The Dominican Republic last November, for example, was pretty well outraged.

Naturally, none of this was accompanied by plans of action, proposals for solutions to the "problem" (such as it were), or anything else potentially productive. Just ranting and implications that Obama himself is having a queer relationship with the Emir of Qatar. The President of NYYRC Brian Morgenstern did take productive actions, however, and Palumbo has now resigned and Morgenstern issued an apology stating that Palumbo's views do not reflect the views of the club.


World's Tallest Residential Tower Planned in NYC

Nordstrom

The Nordstrom Tower at 225 w. 57th street will rise to 1,775 feet, jut one foot short of the new 1 WTC, according to plans revealed by New York Yimby:

In terms of contemporary comparisons, the design looks to draw from Smith + Gill’s Trump International Tower in Chicago, which is also replete with setbacks and ends in a distinctive but far shorter spire; indeed, it almost looks like a merger between Trump and Willis, though the notched indentations at Nordstrom will be far less intrusive than the setbacks on the former Sears Tower.

Extell’s latest development will have a collection of superlative titles, but its (hopefully) imminent rise underscores the velocity of New York’s general ‘supertall’ boom, which is now the most impressive on the planet. In Midtown alone, other supertalls on the near-horizon include 111 West 57th Street, 432 Park Avenue, 53 West 53rd Street, 3 Hudson Boulevard, 30 Hudson Yards, and 35 Hudson Yards, all of which are already under construction or on their way.


Wiki Loves Pride Edit-A-Thons Improve LGBT Content On Wikipedia

Wikimedia lgbt

Last month, Wikipedia launched a series of Wiki Loves Pride edit-a-thons to improve LGBT-related content on various Wikimedia projects.

The edit-a-thons aim to increase “the number of people and perspectives contributing to LGBT information on the site, as well as encouraging institutions to add their authority information, research and images to the public domain.”

Edit-a-thons have already taken place in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon.  Future edit-a-thons are planned for Atlanta and Houston and for Bangalore and Delhi, India.


Line-Up For NewFest, New York's Biggest LGBT Film Festival, Announced: VIDEO

NewFestIn late June, Outfest, in partnership with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, announced the lineup for New York City's largest and most esteemed LGBT film festival, NewFest! Running from July 24th through July 29th, the nearly week-long event will consist of sixteen narrative and five documentary features.

Write the organizers:

Lesli Klainberg, Film Society of Lincoln Center's Executive Director said, “This marks the fourth year of having NewFest at the Film Society and we couldn’t be happier to continue our collaboration with Outfest. LGBT films and filmmakers are a vital part of cinema worldwide, and we are thrilled to offer this showcase on our screens each year.”

“In the year following spectacular LGBT civil rights advances across the country, the dynamic and fresh slate of 2014 NewFest films decisively demonstrates that artists and storytellers lead the charge in creating social change,” said Kristin Pepe (KP), Outfest’s Director of Programming.

NewFest's goal is to support "diverse film communities and voices from around the world," and the lineup for this year's festival has international entries from Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Israel, and several other countries, as well as films focused on the experiences of lesbian, gay, and transgender characters. 

FuturoThe opening night film, Futuro Beach, is a joint Brazilian and German production:

"When Brazilian lifeguard Donato fails to save a swimmer from drowning, he seeks out the victim’s friend Konrad, a handsome German biker. The two men begin a passionate affair, and Donato soon decides to follow Konrad to Berlin. Years later, their seemingly peaceful life is threatened by a visitor from Donato’s past. Director Karim Aïnouz...delivers a visually stunning, emotionally resonant tale about three men struggling across oceans of love, loss, and heartache."

GerontophiliaAnd the closing night slot is filled by legendary filmmaker Bruce LaBruce's Gerontophilia:

"Lake refuses to feel shame about his unquenchable appetite for older men. The handsome teen defiantly signs up as an orderly at a local nursing home and quickly falls for Mr. Peabody, a charming, flirtatious soul with one last wish. Forget everything you know about filmmaker Bruce LaBruce: in what is easily his most romantic work to date, he dares us to look beyond fetish to embrace the beauty of all stages of life."

NewFest tickets will go on sale on July 10th. For more information, visit the NewFest website.

And check out the trailers for Futuro Beach (not in English) and Gerontophilia, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Line-Up For NewFest, New York's Biggest LGBT Film Festival, Announced: VIDEO" »


Demi Lovato Offends Vladimir Putin With Same-Sex Kiss: VIDEO

Demi lovator dancers vladimir putin

Russian social media users have taken to Twitter following Demi Lovato’s concert at New York Gay Pride which featured a strategically placed image of Vladimir Putin, according to the BBC

Outrage at demi lovato

During a performance of "Really Don't Care", two of Lovato’s male backing dancers shared a kiss. One of dancers was naked except for a portrait of Vladimir Putin attached to his underwear.

Russia has come under fire in the last year for enacting anti-gay laws.

The video for "Really Don't Care" features scenes from a gay pride event in California and opens with Lovato saying, "You don't have to hate because my Jesus loves all."

Shortly after New York Pride, Russian Twitter users started using the hashtags #DemiHurtsRussianLovatics #StayStrongPutin to voice their anger over the controversial use of Putin’s image. Russian social network Vkontakte was also used to vent user's outrage.

Fans have also taken to Twitter to defend Lovato.

Fan stands up for lovato

Lovato denied accusations she'd used offensive language to describe Vladimir Putin.

Demi lovato

Some fans have since voiced concerns that Lovato will not be allowed to perform in Russia in the future.

Watch the video for "Really Don't Care," AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Demi Lovato Offends Vladimir Putin With Same-Sex Kiss: VIDEO" »


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