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Syrian war damages nearly 300 cultural heritage sites, report says

Syria has seen damage to hundreds of historically significant cultural heritage sites since the outbreak of war three years ago, according to a new report released this week by the United Nations. The study finds that 290 culturally important areas in the Middle Eastern country have sustained damage or have been totally destroyed.

The U.N. said the report is based on satellite analysis that started in June, and that the city of Aleppo could be "one of the worst affected metropolitan areas nationwide." The study team also relied on a large number of reports and media from inside Syria as well as videos on YouTube to help pinpoint exact locations.

"It is very difficult, if not impossible, to gather evidence and information through traditional means. Large parts of the country are inaccessible to observers, as they are controlled by terrorist groups," the report said.

Among the 18 Syrian locations examined in the report are six UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Aleppo, which is...

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Stephen Sondheim at the movies: Beyond 'Into the Woods'

Famously fussy and protective of his stage musicals, Stephen Sondheim isn't the most natural fit for the movie business, where the surrender of creative control to bottom-line-minded producers is a frequent part of the Hollywood game.

And yet Sondheim's filmography is larger and more diverse than one might initially suspect. "Into the Woods," which opened on Christmas, is the sixth Sondheim musical to be adapted for the big screen. He has also written music for filmmakers including Warren Beatty and Alain Resnais.

Sondheim has won eight Tony Awards in his stage career, but his only Academy Award to date was for the song "Sooner or Later," which he wrote for the 1990 movie "Dick Tracy."

Here are some of Sondheim's best-known screen credits, ranging from movie adaptations of his musicals to original compositions for the cinema.

"West Side Story" (1961): A 26-year-old Sondheim wrote the lyrics for the popular musical, which opened on Broadway in 1957. The movie version, starring Natalie...

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L.A. theater openings, Dec. 28-Jan. 4: 'Kinky Boots' and more

After a stint at the Pantages, the Tony-winning musical "Kinky Boots" sashays on down to Segerstrom Center. Also, Rita Rudner rings in the new at Laguna Playhouse, and Glendale Centre Theatre stages Ken Ludwig's "Lend Me a Tenor."

The World Is My Home — The Life of Paul Robeson Writer-performer Stogie Kenyatta portrays the African American singer-actor-activist in this solo show. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. Today, 7 p.m. $20, $25. (310) 394-9779.

Ghost Light Vocal Jam Holiday edition of the Broadway-themed open-mike night hosted by Molly Mahoney. Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills. Tue., 7 p.m. $10, $15. (714) 777-3033.

Kinky Boots National touring production of Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning musical about the owner of a struggling shoe factory and the drag performer who helps turn his business around. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tue.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m.; next Sun., 1...

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'The Interview' to get a live reading at New York theater

Sony's theatrical release of "The Interview" is officially kaput, but a small New York stage company is taking up the cause by hosting a live reading of the movie's screenplay.

The reading, which is being mounted by a group of three New York-based producers and comedians, will be free to the public.

The Treehouse Theater, a relatively new stage company located near New York's Chelsea neighborhood, said on its website that the live reading will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. 

"This is an opportunity for people to come together in the name of free speech, in defiance of all who have threatened it," the theater company said.

The screenplay for "The Interview" was written by Dan Sterling, from a story by Sterling, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The movie follows two bumbling entertainment journalists who are invited to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un. When the CIA learns about the trip, they enlist the journalists (James Franco and Rogen) to assassinate the North Korean leader.


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Renee Fleming to star on Broadway for first time

Having played dozens of roles on the operatic stage, Renee Fleming will venture into new territory this spring when she makes her Broadway debut in the play "Living on Love." The soprano will reprise the role of a temperamental opera diva that she first performed this summer in a brief run of the comedy at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts.

"Living on Love," written by Joe DiPietro, is scheduled to officially open April 20 at the Longacre Theatre in New York, producers announced Monday. The production is to be directed by Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall, who staged the production at Williamstown.

In the play, Fleming plays Raquel De Angelis, an opera singer who spars with her conductor husband when he falls for the young woman hired to write his memoirs. In retaliation, De Angelis hires a young man to pen her memoirs, causing even more marital friction.

No additional casting has been announced for the Broadway production. At Williamstown, the roles of the young...

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Holiday Sing-Along at Disney Hall a family delight

Christmas came early to Walt Disney Concert Hall. It came Saturday morning, and once again later the same afternoon, with jingle bells, Santa hats, and big and small voices all around.

It was the LA Phil’s annual Holiday Sing-Along featuring conductor John Sutton, the Angeles Chorale, and your friends and neighbors. Between the poinsettias, red and snowflake-patterned lights and a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, there was no mistaking this was a holiday celebration.

This delightful tradition is not a show for people who like to sit back and let someone else do the driving. That’s probably for the best since judging by the audience for the 11:30 a.m. performance, a goodly portion had yet to obtain their driver’s licenses -- and some of them came in car seats.

Basically, this is the same family crowd you might see on the weekends at the zoo, except much better dressed and maybe a bit jollier. At certain points, the quality of the audience singing might have rivaled certain zoo...

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