Russian-themed play in NY bans Vodka in gay law protest

WASHINGTON, (PNA/RIA Novosti) -– There will be no Russian vodka for audiences who attend performances of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” which opens Friday night in New York’s Times Square, according to media reports.

Not even if the well-known musical is Russian-themed and based in part on Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” In fact, that may be the point.

Lead producers Howard and Janet Kagan will not be serving vodka with any Russian connection when the show re-opens under a big tent in a new New York location Friday night, according to the New York Times.

The Kagans wanted to demonstrate support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in Russia, the newspaper said.

The show’s summer run was sponsored by Stolichnaya vodka, which is made in Latvia from ingredients grown in Russia, and is widely viewed as a Russian product. Traditionally, “Great Comet” patrons are treated to a bottle of Russian vodka, waiting at their tables when they arrive.

Gay rights advocacy groups have pushed for the popular dinner theater production to lose its affiliation with Russian vodka to protest the country’s controversial law on public expressions of homosexuality, reported the New York Post.

Signed by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year, it bans the promotion of non-traditional relationships to minors.

The Kremlin maintains the law does not prevent adults from making their own choices and is aimed at protecting children, while critics claim the legislation is part of a much wider crackdown that has led to discrimination and violence against Russia’s gay community.

The “Great Comet” producers will also donate the proceeds from Friday night refreshment sales as well as US$ 10,000 to Human Rights Watch, a global organization that works to defend and protect human rights around the world.