Naked Boys Singing!
An excellent production! Practically a cash cow for the community-oriented Bailiwick Theatre -- extended over and over again, running for over two years (as of August, 2003). Excellent dancing and movement. One singer needs a bit more voice training (but only one), and two singers enunciate and sing their lyrics more clearly and naturally than any others I've heard anywhere! Cast members occasionally allow their penises to draw attention through seemingly accidental movements -- quite amusing and completely tasteful, but with a bit of an edge that I liked very much. One of the actors has a smile broader than any I've seen in any production in any city. Completely professional and much, much better than the phrase "community theater" might suggest.
Hey, it's New York, right? And accurately described as the standard against which all other productions will be measured. Excellent dancing, excellent movement, excellent singing. Over five years at Greenwich Village's most prominent theater (I can't count the number of classic gay plays and musicals I've seen there over the years) -- and you don't run so long in so prominent a location without a lot of talent. For reasons I don't understand (odd local laws? accident?), in a couple of instances cast members shy away from certain kinds of touch (e.g., no Los-Angeles-style momentary lifting of the penis in the "Bris" number). Simple but effective set, used occasionally to present small, pleasant, theatrical moments (e.g., surprise! in the second act, they rotate!).
ou've heard of nudity in the theater, right? Where you can pay a ton of money to watch a show in which boy meets girl and you get a nice view of some famous actor's tush -- if you're sitting in the first row of the balcony? That's what I got when I saw Brad Davis "nude" in a Broadway play a few years ago (I think it was Joe Orton's "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"). Hey, it was a great play, very funny and twisted, and Brad himself was pretty good. But I never got a look at his penis, and I barely got a look at his buns.
For those of us with values so shallow that we judge productions only by the length of time we got to see a penis in them, this was a big disappointment. Not the best use of my money, eh?
Well, the cries of high-concept penis lovers everywhere have finally been heard. Theaters have started producing more plays where we get a wonderful, direct look at the entire, unclothed, naked bodies of one or more of the (need I say male?) actors -- front and rear, often for several seconds at a time -- in productions worthy of our brains as well as our crotches. (Not that there's anything wrong with our crotches!) This trend has passed a logical -- and wonderful -- milestone in the West Hollywood hit "Naked Boys Singing!", [no longer] playing at the Celebration Theater in West Hollywood.
I attended this musical revue's performance in November 1998, and a second time in February 1999. I had expected to like it -- if the singing was good and the skits were clever. After all, I'd heard that we get not a mere glance, but a nice, lasting, evening-long look at nine -- count 'em, nine -- cute naked "boys" of the West Hollywood type. (Sorry, bear lovers -- you'll have to wait for "Naked Bears Singing" to see beards or body fur here.) And there was singing and dancing and jokes, to boot -- how could I lose?
came away from the show far more entranced than even I had expected. I've seen a lot of cute naked guys in my life -- sometimes hundreds at a time. The IMEN and GNI gatherings each year have exceptional talent shows, too -- so I'm used to the idea of naked guys singing and dancing. Might this production have seemed old hat to me? Been there? Done that?
Well, if so, it was "Been there, done that, let's go there and do it again"! This musical comedy review is, of course, entirely original material with real singing and dancing not three feet away from where you're sitting. The audience is clothed, of course, and you can't assume -- unlike my beloved nudist talent shows -- that the onlookers are nudists. That added an extra something to the air, and gave an edge to the performance.
Even for this confirmed and well-experienced nudist, this was an electric experience. For the entire show -- from beginning to end -- I was checking out every aspect of the actors' bodies, over and over again, from head to toe and back again. Over and over again! I never got tired of this, and now I wonder why.
mmmm... This one's got a birthmark about the size of a half dollar on his thigh; I wonder why he didn't cover it with makeup? Gosh.... that one's the only one with any hair on his chest. Gee... if I let my eyes go out of focus, that tall, muscular, strapping one with the creamy-white skin has a penis and balls which look like a perfect ellipse: beige, ovoid, just below a brown triangle of pubes. This one looks like that short, compact preppie you lusted after in college. That one with the long penis -- I hate to reinforce stereotypes, but it was the Latino -- has the most triangular body shape of the bunch, and the tip of that foreskin is really, really deliciously long. Gee... that's a cute little tattoo on the sandy-curly-haired one, but I can't exactly make out what it's of. Um, gosh, that one sure looks like the sweetest, most innocent "boy next door" I've seen, and -- well, he can't be all that innocent because he's singing about his bris (the Jewish ritual of circumcision)... And this one has a bubble butt, and that one has a muscular butt, and the other one has...
And so on and so on and on and on -- all night. My eyes were really, really greedy, as if they had been starved for man-flesh for months and, given the opportunity, would devour every square inch of man-skin in sight. What was that all about?
Well, if the actors had been wearing costumes wouldn't I have spent almost as much time checking out each detail of their clothing? Um, maybe, but probably not. In fact, I think I spent much more time looking than if they had been clothed. Up, down, up, down, updown, updownupdown...
Plus, I can't get that song out of my head: "Nothin' but the radio on, la dee da da dee da da dee da da..."!
or many of the skits costumes were used; I found this made me uncomfortable. Weird. Once they got naked again, I relaxed -- even as the adrenaline dumped into my blood and my mind alerted itself to the new presence of penises. It was an ecstatic, happy feeling, but it was really, really bizarre -- especially because I had thought I'd experienced this before.
So... can these boys sing? Yes, sir, they really can. Can they dance? Absolutely; I'll see if, one day, I can interview some of them for my Men Dancing Naked page. Can the writers write? By and large, yes -- I found a couple of the skits a bit weak, but most were hilarious.
Open the song-sample window -- listen to excerpts as you read about them below
he show started with Gratuitous Nudity -- a song-and-dance number which began as the lights suddenly came up on all nine members of the cast. Starkers, 100% naked, except for some fog. No waiting 40 minutes for the director to play around with letting his actors tease us and undress -- thank God!
The Naked Maid -- about a nude-guy cleaning service -- will have to be recommended to my New York friend who used to do this himself (he told me he was only hired by men whose apartments were already immaculate!). In The Bliss of a Bris, the "baby" boy's penis is touched, picked up, covered up, manipulated -- all in a way that makes you realize what an incredible taboo it is to talk about this part of the anatomy in public. Every other time I've seen a penis in a theater performance, its visibility is completely ignored -- and yet, in a humorous skit about circumcision, nothing could be more unnatural than ignoring it. In this way and a dozen others, this show blazes a new trail, and it's interesting to observe your own reactions when taboos which shouldn't be taboo are casually violated left and right.
Window to Window is the first of two romantic songs about discovering the guy across the way who watches as you undress each night. While very pretty, the singing would have been mesmerizing if the stories -- which are related -- were more tightly woven and emotionally motivated. For example, in the first song the admirer suddenly pulls down his window shade, throwing the singer/performer into a funk. But when the admirer himself sings (in the second song), no reference is made to the pulling-down. It would have been better, I thought, if he had pulled down the shade and incidentally provided some explanation -- preferably one which showed that the other fellow's interpretation was dead wrong. This little tragedy could be resolved cleverly or humorously in a third song. But who am I to criticize? -- maybe they tried it that way already and it didn't work.
Fight the Urge will take you back to the days in high school when you fought your budding erections in the locker room, and Robert Mitchum is for fans of the slightly older, imperfect-body look. Jack's Song is a rousing (pun intended) number about masturbation that rings down the curtain (I guess it's the Emperor's New Stage Curtain, since there is none) on Act I.
The standouts in the second act are Perky Little Porn Star [from Skokie, Illinois], complete with perky little lyrics (have you ever tried to rhyme "dildo" or "fudging"?) which stick in my head every time I'm reminded of it; Muscle Addiction, a perfectly syncopated, near-rap number about gay men's addiction to working out (very original, despite what could have been so very predictable); and Nothin' But the Radio On, with that incredibly catchy tune and a surprisingly touching story about people who pose naked and risk their careers. Members Only is a deceptively titled parody of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta number (I think), which turns into a musical oral exercise that has to be heard to be believed. Too bad choruses can't warm up their voices this way every night!
s a light musical entertainment, Naked Boys Singing! succeeds admirably. But it's something more than that. Not very long ago, it would have been a risk for up-and-coming actors living in Hollywood to sing the songs in this revue with their clothes on, and you could be forgiven if you think it's still a risk to be openly gay, proud, and -- gasp! -- naked.
Obviously, times have changed, and this production is the milestone that proves it. Almost all of the original cast members have moved on to "real" jobs (pardon the expression) during the first nine months of the run, so there seem to be no negative career consequences to joining the cast. Besides being a great inducement to go see the show a second time -- fresh meat! eight new penises! -- it's also a remarkable testament to the emotional power of seeing the courage of (apparently) gay young men being so open about themselves and their bodies. So many of us wish we could have such courage; so few of us ever get it. If you think stripping is easier for guys who are good-looking -- as all the cast members are -- think again; in my experience, conventionally handsome gay men are often even more neurotic and unsure of their attractiveness than those of us with average looks.
oreover -- on the size issue -- only one cast member could have gotten a part on the basis of his penis length alone, but he's a union actor whose talent was evident even when you weren't looking down there. All evening, what was really on display was raw talent, in the raw, polished to a shine so shimmering you can see yourself in the reflection.
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