Naked Boys Singing

Actor's Playhouse, NY – October 2000

Reviewed by John Kenrick

I put off seeing this show for two reasons. First, I did not see the (ahem) point in watching yet another gaggle of nude men on stage. The few shows I have seen involving gay male nudity (Party, etc.) were all sensation and no sense. Second, a friend of mine was in the New York cast, and yours truly has never been the sort who would pay to see friends bounce about in the buff.

Silly me!

Naked Boys Singing is surprisingly witty, with an adult sense of humor that never stoops to pornography or tackiness. It's all good (if not altogether clean) fun, and while the viewpoint is certainly gay, this is by no means homo-only entertainment. On the Friday night that I attended, straight women made up most of the audience, and the ladies had a blast! Their straight husbands and boyfriends were laughing themselves silly too.

One of the few things in this show that's serious is the title. From the get go, the all-male cast spends most of the evening absolutely bare. While the opening number promises "gratuitous nudity," the show actually finds plenty of legitimate subjects that are funnier in the buff – everything from a circumcision ceremony to the cruisy chemistry of men's locker rooms. I am happy to report that there is no simulated sexual activity – at no time does the nudity become an excuse for obscenity. The emphasis is on laughs, but there are some insightful moments.

Unless you are an astoundingly progressive parent, this is not for the kids – adult subjects are covered in a frank and often uproarious manner. It is offensive? I'm sure Pat Robertson (who is mentioned in the opening) would be horrified, but those with more open minds are in for some solid belly laughs – not to mention a stage full of rather solidly muscled bellies.

The entire ensemble is attractive and talented, with physiques that made for (you should pardon the expression) eye-filling fun. Tim Burke, Eric Dean Davis, Tom Gaulitieri, Patrick Herwood, Bruce Linser, George M. Livengood, Robert McGown, Eric Potter, Steven Spraragen and Luis Villabon were all (you should pardon another expression) standouts.

About a dozen composers and lyricists contributed to the score, which is melodic and often extremely funny. While none of the songs is a solid-gold hit, the best one's offer solid musical comedy fun. A tribute to Robert Mitchum is especially satisfying, and "Jack's Song" (this being a family-friendly website, I can't tell you about the subject matter) had the place screaming. "Window to Window" and "Kris" are touching ballads, changing the pace without losing the charm that threads the whole evening together.

Naked Boys Singing is not for everyone, but if (you should pardon yet another expression) you're up for something daring, you won't find a funnier show currently running in New York. And that friend I was nervous about seeing? Well, he certainly has nothing to be ashamed of – (You go Luis!) – so far be it from me to waste time being embarrassed on his behalf. Don't make my mistake – see this one soon. We could all use a good laugh, no?

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