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“This isn’t a typical Monday night for me,” J. Bob Alotta admitted to the Gershwin Theatre crowd on Monday night for Uprising of Love benefit concert. “Tuesdays nights are entirely different story!” joked the executive director of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the evening’s beneficiary.
The star-studded concert — written by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, hosted by Jane Lynch, and featuring performances from the likes of Sting and Patti LuPone — raised money and awareness for the injustice toward the LGBTQI people internationally. The Hollywood Reporter recounts the night’s highlights.
10. Sting performs with fire.
Melissa Etheridge, Dustin Lance Black, Bruce Cohen, Greg Propper and more co-founded the Uprising of Love movement out of the controversy surrounding the Sochi Olympics over the treatment of LGBTQI individuals in Russia. So what better metaphor than to have Sting open the show singing “Fragile” alongside a giant Olympic-style torch?
9. “I’m Jane Lynch, BTW.”
The evening’s host kept her comic chops at bay, sticking strictly to Black’s tight script, but every now and then she couldn’t help but let loose with a fun aside. Also, her classy tuxedo jacket was pretty sweet.
8. Patti sings Sondheim.
Patti LuPone and Stephen Sondheim are to the gay community what … well, let’s just say they’re very important to a large subset. So LuPone performed two Sondheim tunes, “Being Alive” from Company and “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd. In true LuPone fashion, she belted and warbled every note. The only thing she didn’t do was yell at all the people taking flash photos during her songs.
7. Billy Porter is “changing” the beat.
The Tony-winning star of Kinky Boots sang a sultry, jazz rendition of “I Am Changing” from Dreamgirls. Multiple mid-song applause breaks later, we’re having trouble remembering the original.
6. We love musicals!
Are you sensing a theme? The casts of Witness Uganda, Once, and Wicked all performed as part of the presentation, and Sting also sang from his new musical The Last Ship. But the most moving number came when the ensemble of I Am Harvey Milk, with the show’s composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa as Harvey Milk, took the stage in crisp black suits and sang “Tired of the Silence” from the show, which will be at Avery Fisher Hall on Oct. 6. The number concluded with a resounding refrain of “Come out,” repeated over and over, which led several audience members to stand in appreciation.
5. Bollywood and country music.
The evening’s proceedings were all about inclusion — even with its musical styles. Openly gay country music star Chely Wright sang her song “It Was,” while Indian actress Celina Jaitly performed “The Welcome.” The song comes from a United Nations video for the Free & Equal campaign, with has more than 2 million YouTube views and has become the highest-viewed human rights video of all time.
4. Kathy Najimy is telling jokes and raising money.
“Oh god, my Grindr is going crazy!” the actress quipped as she took the podium to raise money. Her calculation tactic? “Triple what you spend on sushi and Uber,” she suggested, or, “donate one month of your gym membership.”
3. A message from the United Nations.
U.N.’s Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recorded a video message conveying the U.N.’s support of the goal to make the world a safe and accepting place for all LGBTQI people. “I stand with them and all of you in this struggle,” Ki-Moon said, mentioning the U.N.’s Free & Equal Campaign. “Together, we can change these abuses.”
2. Jane Lynch is Sting’s back-up singer.
All those years on Glee and crooning in Christopher Guest films has paid off. After Lynch wrapped up her hosting gig, she took the stage and supported Sting during “Englishman in New York.” The rest of the evening’s performers joined in too, but Lynch made sure she had a microphone in the front.
1. The real star of the night is … Vladislav Slavskiy.
Forget about Sting. As soon as this Sochi native took the stage, the audience leapt to their feet and erupted in applause. Throughout the evening, clips of a documentary about Slaviskiy’s life as an openly gay teen in Russia played, and Lynch talked about moments where he met Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir (who executive produced the documentary To Russia With Love) and Billie Jean King, who made it possible for Slaviskiy to seek asylum in the U.S. Slavskiy will start school at Cal State Los Angeles next week.
However, despite his thunderous reception, he simply drove the night’s message home. “I am truly thankful,” he said. “I love New York. But New York is not my home.”
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