Naked Boys...Still Singing!
It originally opened in 1999 as a anthology of songs by some of the most whimsical writers of musical comedy who felt inspired to bare their souls and strip the cast naked of its inhibitions...literally. More than a decade later "Naked Boys Singing" has performed on every coast and even on the West End, and as far as Australia. Now back Off-Broadway with not a single empty seat in the house it's good to know that "skin is still in" as this latest revival of the musical returns to its roots.
Director Tom D'Angora is the driving force behind the relaunch of "Naked Boys Singing" which is currently enjoying a residency at its new home at the Kirk Theatre on Theatre Row on 42nd Street. "I've been doing the show for 10 years in Provincetown," D'Angora says, "and have been wanting to bring it back to New York with this production." But even D'Angora must admit the most obvious reason for bringing the show back is for the stimulation of an entirely new fan base.
When "Naked Boys Singing" made its debut in the 90's, first in LA then later in NYC, it spoke to a very different audience; a group that had been castrated by the advent of AIDS and had seen many of its greatest advocates cut down by this then infamously untamable harbinger. It was an inspired call to action for gay men everywhere to embrace and celebrate their sexuality, and not fear it. It was also meant to help cleanse the palette of any shame, through its candid humor and heart.
Baring It All...
"The ending is more relevant now that it ever was before," D’Angora relates, "especially for the boys." Although D’Angora has taken great lengths to keep the integrity of the original concept of "Naked Boys Singing" intact, he’s been able to streamline this version, not at all compromising the spectacle. What you came to see is after all the talent in the buff, but certain songs have a new polish to them. "I was so excited to have ’Window to the Soul’ in this production," the directory says.
"Naked Boys Singing" cast member Seph Stanek agrees: "It’s such a triumph for New York state to have marriage equality, so there are songs that resonate with us very deeply." Love songs like "Window to the Soul" which appeal to the romance of unrequited love, have a new meaning in a world where marriage equality is a reality.
It still doesn’t distract from the fact that the cast of "Naked Boys Singing" is for the entire show on stage modestly on display. It’s a prerequisite from the casting process, certainly after callbacks, that the actors prepare for the inevitable reveal.
David San Angelo, who charmingly cleans up as "The Naked Maid" admits it was at first disarming. "I remember thinking that perhaps the cast wasn’t going to be naked...not really - I didn’t think I would get cast." Cast mate Ricky Schroeder learned to shake it off: "When you first get cast you think about being naked, but by the time you get on stage you get over in 10 seconds." And Ryan Obermeier added: "At the same time you’re doing a show - you gotta do it! And we’re all having fun."
Succinctly re-imagined to appeal to the shorter attention spans of today’s audiences, and the girth of its comfort level, "Naked Boys Singing" still enlivens with the camp factor with songs that encourage one to "Fight the Urge" and "Beat the Meat." It also titillates and pokes fun at gay culture and its "Muscle Addiction" or fixation with porn. Christopher Trepinkski’s "Perky Little Porn Star" is still a rousing favorite.
But when the show slows down to reveal its warmth with tender moments like "Window to Window" it can be somewhat disengaging that women catcall as obliviously as their chauvinistic counterparts, and do not empathize with the isolation behind the song. It’s then that you are reminded that as the title insinuates this is all about naked boys...singing. That’s what the majority of the audience came to see. That’s what the audience gets.
"I love the show...’Naked Boys Singing’ changed my life," D’Angora says in closing. Before the director and his husband and production partner Michael D’Angora took on the duties of carrying the torch for the NBS legacy, Tom was part of the cast. "It’s fun to relive it through the cast. It was a coming of age for me and I can see that it will also be for them as well." And "Naked Boys Singing" will continue to poke, prod and wiggle its finger in its unending effort to entertain its fans and grow in length beyond its predecessors. "We have a 12 year run to beat," D’Angora say. No pressure to perform - "Naked Boys Singing" is a one-night stand worth repeating.
"Naked Boys Singing" is currently playing at the Kirk Theatre on Theatre Row at 410 West 42nd Street. For tickets visit Telecharge.com or call (212) 239-6200.