City Spotlight: New York

The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. The Empire City. The City of Skyscrapers; just some of the nicknames given to New York, one of the most well-known global holiday hotspots and is also very popular with LGBT travellers, constantly topping or being in lists of best gay travel destinations. And it’s not hard to see why.

New York offers something for everyone to do 24/7, 365 days a year – it’s rich with culture (art galleries and museums galore) and history (including LGBT history in the form of the famous Stonewall Inn, where the Stonewall Riots of 1969 began), has a vibrant nightlife, great shopping being one of the main fashion capitals of the world and some amazing sights to see, including the fountain where the Twin Towers used to stand, the Empire State building, Times Square, Central Park, the One World Trade Centre and of course, the Statue of Liberty to name just a few. It may be a buzzing metropolitan city, but New York’s parks and rivers also offer some quieter solace from the hubbub of the streets and breathing space from the countless high skyscrapers.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

New York’s gay scene is thriving and is spread all across the its five boroughs – Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island, although its main areas are situated in Chelsea (lower Manhattan), East Side and East Village, Hell’s Kitchen in Queens and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, where are there a whole host of different kinds of bars, clubs, restaurants and other gay-run establishments that cater to or are aimed at different members of the diverse LGBT community.

via Twitter

via Twitter

New York City Pride is one of the world’s largest, attracting an estimated more than 1 million people. The Parade is a spectacular sight to behold as it snakes across the city southward down the famous Fifth Avenue and fittingly ends at Greenwich Village and Christopher Street, right by the Stonewall Inn – where the LGBT rights movement first began. Pride week usually takes places towards the end of June (17-25th this year). Confirmed acts that will be performing include Tegan and Sara, Years & Years, Roisin Murphy, Deborah Cox, Patti Labelle, LeAnn Rimes and Nelly Furtado. Other events that will take place include a Youth Pride, Family Movie Night, OutCinema, The Rally and the Village Voice Pride Awards.

via Facebook

via Facebook

Gay Homestays has more than 30 places to book in New York, from spare rooms in flats and houses or whole properties and B&Bs and guesthouses, with some being gay-owned or gay-friendly. While New York is certainly not short of hotels, including gay-run ones, the opportunity to stay with a local and see and experience the city firsthand through them should not be passed up.

Review: Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre

Dreamgirls has long been one of the most popular musicals of all time. It first began on Broadway back in 1981, which was followed by a number of national and international tours as well as residences, revivals and one-off concerts. Its most prominent revival was the award-winning 2006 film adaptation starring Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson as well as a whole host of other A-list stars – which has since gained a huge gay following. Riding off that box office success was the 2009 revival in the US and now its finally made its way to the West End.

In November 2016, the West End production opened to rave reviews. Starring Glee’s Amber Riley as Effie White, the show has consistently sold out and recently won 2 Olivier Awards – one for Amber. As a huge fan of the musical – particularly the film – Gay Homestays went along on Saturday 29th April to “check it over and check it out” at the Savoy Theatre and in short, we absolutely loved it!

Dreamgirls

In the first scene we are almost immediately introduced to “The Dreamettes” and although we are sure everyone was expecting Amber Riley to make her entrance as Effie, it was in fact her alternate Marisha Wallace who stepped out instead. Of course, for most this may have been a slight disappointment but nevertheless she very quickly proved why she was chosen as Effie as well – both her acting and singing chops were on point.

Most people who have seen the musical or film will already know the story and its timeline from start to finish, but being aware of what happens next or even memorising the script did not deter anyone from watching with intent and awe as the cast took back on a journey through this iconic musical as it retold the tale of The Dreams. Throughout the production, the urge to get up and sing is almost unbearable at times – you know the lyrics to every song and have been practicing them all week in preparation – but at the same time you marvel at them as they tackle every song with charisma and ease, injecting emotion and soul with every word and note.

Adam J. Bernard, who plays Jimmy Early, is full of energy and really fully embodies his character – and it seems like he studied Eddie Murphy’s interpretation very well, as his voice was almost like a clone. Some may have found this redundant, because of course you want every actor to have their own interpretation of a character, while others may have been gobsmacked that he sounded exactly like Eddie. Either way, it did not deter him from showing us why he won the Olivier award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.

Marisha passed every test and was almost too good to be true as Effie White – a role that has some very big shoes to fill. She nailed the legendary “And I Am Telling You…”, giving a rendition that dare we say, is actually better than her predecessors – her voice is warmer and less gritty than Jennifer Holliday, less piercing than Jennifer Hudson’s and richer than Amber Riley’s. Her incredible Dreams co-stars as Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson also played their parts well.

Marisha Wallace: Amber Riley's understudy and Effie White alternate.

Marisha Wallace: Amber Riley’s understudy and Effie White alternate.

In a brilliant scene between Effie and Deena, both actresses break out into an unexpected duet of “Listen”, which was originally written specifically for the film version and performed by Beyoncé. The song was reworked in 2009 for the stage revival as a rekindling of the pair’s friendship as Effie encourages Deena to be strong, leave Curtis and go her own way, and was a very pleasant surprise to people here and the two ladies gave it their all as they emotionally belted it out. Beyoncé would surely be both proud and shook by the performance.

One song however, that we do wish had also made its way onto the stage is “Love You I Do”, the soulful crooner that Effie White sings to Curtis. Jennifer Hudson originated the performance in the film and it has since become a fan favourite, but was sadly missed off this time.

In all, all the experience of watching Dreamgirls on stage is a joy. The entire cast were magnificent and the music leaves you wanting to re-listen to all the songs again even though you spent ages listening to them beforehand because you couldn’t sing along during it and the whole soundtrack really is that timeless.

The Savoy Theatre connects to the luxury Savoy Hotel in the Strand in London’s West End. It neighbours a number of other theatres with shows on such as Kinky Boots at the Adelphi (The Bodyguard was here previously, as we reviewed) and Stepping Out the Vaudeville. The Lyceum Theatre where The Lion King has a long-term residency and the Novello Theatre where Mamma Mia is, are not far away at all. The Strand is close to Westminster, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Soho, so is both a dream destination for tourists and LGBT people visiting London alike.

If you’re thinking of going to London and watching Dreamgirls too, then why not check out if any of our hundreds of fabulous host have got availability for you on your desired dates? You can book tickets to see Dreamgirls on their website.

Overall rating: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 5/5
Choreography: 5/5
Production: 5/5

Have you seen Dreamgirls in the West End or any of the other previous productions? What are your thoughts on the show? Let us know in the comments section below and on social media!

Spotlight On: The Gay Agenda

Not many small time radio shows have achieved more than they dreamt possible from their humble beginnings and reached out beyond their country of origin but The Gay Agenda, on Fab Radio International, is currently Europe’s number one online radio show, with listeners in 46 countries across the globe. Since its launch in 2014, The Gay Agenda, which actually started out as a little challenge and a jest amongst a group of friends, has grown from strength to strength to get where it is today. Gay Homestays spoke to creator and host, Rylan Cavell about the show:

gay-agenda-logo-head

GH: Hi Rylan, can you tell us a bit more about the beginnings of The Gay Agenda?

RC: The Gay Agenda began life as a jest. I was discussing the launch of a new online radio station with the chaps putting it together. After a few pints they jokingly suggested that I should do a show and call it ‘the gay agenda’. Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed. And so the show was born. I found a few friend who equally had a passion for equality and media, and launched as one of the original shows in November 2014 at the same time as Fab Radio International. The Gay Agenda is actually one of only a small number of original shows that is still on the station.

GH: And what kind of topics on the “agenda” of The Gay Agenda?

RC: Being in a privileged position has enabled me, via the show, to shine a light on issues faced by many in the queer community who are often marginalised and ignored by mainstream media. Ignored often even by mainstream LGBT media.

Recent topics have included Transgender discrimination, the destructive nature of ‘masculinity’, LGBT University Societies, Asylum Seekers, Sexual Health and much much more! The show is light-hearted, but covers important topics. We hope that we are an entertaining platform where sometimes inaccessible and hard-to-understand topics and issues are opened up for debate in an interesting and amusing way.

GH: How does it feel to know you’ve got listeners in so many countries worldwide?

RC: Being on a station that reaches 46 countries around the world, and that is the number 1 online radio station in Europe shows that Fab Radio is doing something right! The station’s tag line is ‘Embrace The Alternative’, and the figures demonstrate that the grass-roots nature of station and the shows is what people want! It is flattering and humbling to know that so many people are listening, and I hope what we do spreads a little more awareness and understanding of the LGBT people of the worlds.

GH: And finally, are there any celebrities you would love to feature on your show?

RC: I would love to be able to get Sir Ian McKellan and Sandi Toksvig on the show, to name just two.

Sandi Toksvig

The Gay Agenda will be taking its show on the road on Sunday 26th February when Ryan hosts a frank and open discussion on modern queer life at the renowned Frog & Bucket Comedy Club in Manchester. He will be joined by drag king comedian Lydia Bernsmeier-Rullow, trans activist, broadcaster and musician Ashleigh Talbot and campaigner Junior Maxwell. Also featuring are compere Laini Johnson and guest speakers Steph Pike and Sali Owen.

The show will start at 4.30pm and tickets are currently available on The Gay Agenda website.

In the meantime, you can tune into The Gay Agenda every Friday evening from 7-9pm and also catch Rylan hosting That’s Pride TV channel every Monday evening from 7.30pm.

 

Top 10 Campest Christmas Flicks

Now we know it’s not even December yet but we can all agree that we are within a reasonable distance to talk about it at least? Well, (Not to sound like a snooty neighbour) we here have already planned our Christmas Day viewing to avoid the inevitable 6 O’clock slump between turkey and twilight. So take a pick from some of these classics and put together your own boredom-banishing, camp Christmas movie marathon.
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Ernest Saves Christmas (1998, 95 min):

Santa travels to Orlando to pick his successor before his magic runs out. When he arrives, he just happens to meet Ernest, a bumbling taxi driver who is filled with holiday joy. Ernest drops Santa off so he can meet with the next Santa, Joe Carruthers but forgets Santa’s magic bag in the trunk. This very silly comedy is a great way to just laugh that excessive Christmas Day dinner off.

A Very Murray Christmas (2015):

This one is on the list without us even seeing it just because well, Bill Murray & Miley. Premiering on the 4th December as a Netflix exclusive, this is going straight in our basket. Bill Murray worries no one will show up to his T.V. show due to a terrible snow-storm in New York City.

Scrooge & Marley (2012, 91 min.):

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an all-too-familiar story that has had its fair share of Hollywood adaptations. With Scrooge & Marley, debut directors Richard Knight Jr. and Peter Neville attempt to modernize the well-worn holiday tale by putting a gay spin on it.

Make the Yuletide Gay (2009, 89 min.):

Gunn is totally at ease with his sexuality when it comes to everyday life. But going home to spend the holidays with his well-meaning Midwestern parents — who have no idea he’s gay — is a little different. Of course, his closeted charade seems to be working fine until his mom and dad try to set him up with an old flame (Hallee Hirsh) — and his current boyfriend (Adamo Ruggiero) shows up unannounced.

Holiday in Handcuffs (2007, 86 min.):

You all remember Slater from Saved by the Bell? Hunk. Despite it being a trashy Christmas flick it still makes the list. During Christmas dinner, the holiday comes to an abrupt end when aspiring painter Trudie’s (Melissa Joan Hart) parents begin to fight, her brother announces that he is gay, and her sister says that she has quit Law School and bought a Pilates studio with her parents’ tuition money.

C.R.A.Z.Y. (2006, 129 min.):

This one doesn’t scream Christmas, but the holidays play a special role in this story about a gay teen trying to come to terms with his sexuality in a family of macho brothers and a bullheaded dad. Instead of yuletide tunes, you’ll be regaled with a great soundtrack of sounds from the ’60s and ’70s, like Pink Floyd, David Bowie and even Miss Patsy Cline.

The Family Stone (2005, 106 min.):

A family gathers for their annual holiday celebration at the home of their liberal, New England parents. One of the guests is Meredith, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, which is almost gay enough, but those looking for the extra dose of homodays will enjoy the side story about gay son and his partner who announce to their family that they’re ready to adopt.

Miss Richfield: Fall on Your Knees Christmas Extravaganza (2005, 60 min):

Holiday comedy show from Minnesota’s Mistress of Mayhem! This camp production showcases a spectacle of variety, live on stage from her sold out show, and comes with music. Includes Miss Richfield’s candid interaction with audience members at a pre-show celebration.

Too Cool for Christmas (2004, 96 min.):

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Dearborn (Brooke Nevin) is “too cool for Christmas,” and wants no part of the family celebration being planned by her two male homosexual parents (Adam Harrington and Barclay Hope) and her kid sister Alexa (Jodelle Ferland).

Too Cool for Christmas (2004, 96 min.):

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Dearborn (Brooke Nevin) is “too cool for Christmas,” and wants no part of the family celebration being planned by her two male homosexual parents (Adam Harrington and Barclay Hope) and her kid sister Alexa (Jodelle Ferland).

A Tuna Christmas (1989):

The second in a series of comedic plays … set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, the “third-smallest” town in the state. … The plays are at once an affectionate comment on small-town, Southern life and attitudes but also a withering satire of same. The plays are notable in that two men play the entire cast of over twenty eccentric characters of both genders and various ages.

Manchester Pride Preview: Who we’re looking forward to seeing

Manchester Pride is just around the corner once again and there are some great artists who will be gracing either the main stage, Sackville Boutique stage or Gaydio Dance Arena. Here’s a few of our must-sees!

10. Kelly Wilde

Kelly is no stranger to Manchester Pride, having performed several times before and is a very popular act on the gay circuit. As well as some of her songs like “Gloria” and “Maria”, she is known for including covers of classics such as “Holding Out For A Hero” and “(I’ve Had The) Time Of My Life” in her live sets, which you can watch from when she was at Manchester Pride in 2012 below:

9.Jade Ellis

Jade was a finalist on the 9th series of The X Factor in 2012 and was mentored by Tulisa (who will also be performing at Manchester Pride). She has a daughter who she raises with her girlfriend and received a lot of positive reactions when she was very open and candid about her sexuality. Here is one of her best performances from the show:

8. Katy B

Katy has spawned a handful of top 20 hits on the UK singles chart and her debut and sophomore albums reached No.2 and No.1 respectively on the album charts. Over a few short years she has already got to collaborate with some big names, including Miss Dynamite, Craig David, Tinie Tempah and Mark Ronson.

7. Jordan Gray

Jordan certainly made a big impression when she enchanted coaches and the public on series 5 of The Voice earlier this year as the show’s first transgender contestant. We are very interested to see how she progresses as an artist in the future.

6. Sophie Ellis-Bextor

A veteran to the pop-dance and nu-disco music scene, Sophie is probably the biggest global name on this year’s bill with 3 top 10 albums and 6 top 10 singles on the UK music charts and several entries on Australia and many European countries’ charts too. She has a new album out in September called “Familia” but here is her most famous hit, “Murder On The Dancefloor”:

5. Frankmusik

Vincent James Turner – a.k.a. Frankmusik – is one of Britain’s top synth pop artists who has been an ally of the LGBT community for many years and will be performing at Manchester Pride this year.

4. Will Young

One of the biggest names to come from any of the UK’s reality TV competitions and one of the UK’s biggest gay celebrities, Will Young has come a long from when he won Pop Idol in 2002. All six of his albums have reached No.1 or 2 on the UK albums chart and 11 of singles charted in the top 10 – four of which went to No.1. This will be his first time performing at Manchester Pride. Below is our favourite song of his. “Switch It On”, in which he channeled Top Gun in the video:

3. Groove Armada

Arguably one of the UK’s best dance acts of all time, Groove Armada will be rocking the Gaydio Dance Arena on the Saturday. Here is one of their most famous worldwide hits, “I See You Baby”:

2. MNEK

MNEK may only be 21 years old but the openly gay singer-songwriter and producer has already been nominated for a Grammy and worked with some huge names, including Beyonce, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Naughty Boy, Bastille, Little Mix and JoJo. This will be his debut performance at Manchester Pride. Listen below to “Never Forget You”, which was a top 5 hit:

1. Heather Small

Heather Small is THE voice of dance act M People. It’s been almost a decade since she last performed at Manchester Pride and we’re glad to see this gay icon return to the city where M People originated. With one of the most distinctively soulful voices the UK has ever heard, Heather is a legendary force to be reckoned with.

Check out the full list so far of who is set to perform here. Who are you looking forward to seeing most this weekend? Let us know!