No false advertising here: The show's about naked boys singing. The real thing. The full monty. Seven of them, some younger, some a little older, a couple more buff than others, flaunters and flirters and would-be hiders, and every one of them gallantly baring his body and showing his all.
The opening number of Naked Boys Singing!, "Gratuitous Nudity," serves as our introduction to the cast, and is performed with chairs, gray bowler hats and élan. Then there's David Ballew -- who also choreographed the show -- waving a teasing feather duster at the audience as a cheeky (pun intended) "Naked Maid."
The production has no dialogue, plot or characterization. Everything hinges on the songs, and some of them are pretty good -- the humorous narcissism of "Perky Porn Star," as performed by Shannon McCarthy; the Brechtian rhythms of "Jack's Song," with its hilarious choreographic simulation of masturbation; the unexpected deviltry of "The Bliss of a Bris."
I'm not sure whom to credit for the songs (the program says the show was conceived by Robert Schrock and lists thirteen writers under his name), but the serious numbers work less well than the funny ones. I appreciate the sentiment behind the homage to "Robert Mitchum" and the nostalgia for a time when our idols were world-weary men who smoked and drank and seemed to have lived life to the full rather than spending long, self-absorbed hours perfecting their body contours, but neither the rhythm nor the melody did much for me. Nor did the wistful "Window to Window," brought back in the second act for an endless reprise.
Naked Boys Singing! represents a celebration of gayness and the male body, as well as a good-natured poke in the eye to the straight world. It needs to be staged with great exuberance and energy; it should be raucous, wild, shameless and in your face. Director Steven Tangedal doesn't quite achieve this. The stage design feels clumsy; none of the actors is a highly skilled dancer or singer. But laryngitis was stalking the cast when I attended, and a couple of cast changes were announced for that night. Still, the performers were charming, and if they've kicked up a few notches by now, Naked Boys Singing! may well be everything it's meant to be.
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