Broadway stars, TV actors and other top-notch talent helped make the yuletide a little bit gayer than usual Dec. 16 as part of “A Better Holiday" in New York.
Among those who donated their talents to the festive two-hour concert at Manhattan’s XL Nightclub were “Queer as Folk” star Randy Harrison, “Smash” actor Andy Mientus and Broadway vet Max von Essen, who can currently be seen in the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.”
Proceeds from the event --presented by the It Gets Better Project in an effort to “show young LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people the levels of happiness, potential and positivity their lives will reach” -- benefited the Ali Forney Center, the homeless shelter and advocacy organization in Manhattan whose drop-in center was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Attendants also had a chance to take in a special exhibit featuring the work of photographer Victor Haim, on display in a cocktail bar adjacent to the cabaret area.
The night’s beneficent aim certainly resonated with many of the attending stars, who opted for a mix of showtunes and contemporary pop. “I feel like I have a very personal connection to the Ali Forney Center as a New Yorker,” Harrison, who recently wrapped a well-received turn in “Silence! The Musical,” said. “I’ve known so many people who have benefited from the center, whether they’ve lived there or volunteered there.”
Similarly enthused was Ali Forney Center Founder and Executive Director Carl Siciliano. “It’s the generosity and support that came to us from the community that kept [Hurricane Sandy] from destroying us,” noted Siciliano, who's also a HuffPost Gay Voices blogger. Noting that the center’s new drop-in center is scheduled to open in early 2013, he added, “The storm could’ve dealt us a very wounding blow, but it didn’t.”
Looking back on the historic strides made by the LGBT community in 2012 put many in an introspective mood. “For me, seeing Obama take the presidency again was one of the most incredible moments of the year, without a doubt,” said von Essen, whose impassioned letter to Republican-voting Facebook friends went viral after being posted on a number of sites including HuffPost Gay Voices. “I’m not a one-issue voter, but I felt like there was just so much at stake for so many things, particularly human rights issues and the LGBT movement. I was just so terrified, and genuinely sick to my stomach, with the thought that we could be set back decades.”
"Evita" stars Christina DeCicco and Max von Essen strolled the red carpet before the performances began.
"Evita" star Christina DeCicco stopped the show with her rendition of "I Am What I Am" from "La Cage aux Folles."
"Glee Project" star Ali Stroker's powerful "Here's Where I Stand" was one of the evening's highlights.
"Smash" star Andy Mientus crooned "Lady of the Sea" near the start of the show.
Photographer Victor Haim with Ali Stroker, Dani Shay and Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin at the "A Better Holiday" concert.
"Queer as Folk" star Randy Harrison played "I Hope There's Someone" at the piano.
Condola Rashad, who recently starred in the Lifetime TV remake of "Steel Magnolias," played two original songs from her forthcoming CD.