Chicago Theatre Review
Bare Talent in the Flesh
Naked Boys Singing – Eclectic Full Body Theatre
One of the oldest, most original forms of live American entertainment is the Vaudeville-style musical revue. Originating in the early 1800’s and playing well into the 1930’s, this style of variety show is still popular today. What makes this revue truly unique is that there’s no beating around the bush about what audiences are going to see. This is a completely unapologetic show, featuring 15 songs depicting adult scenarios and issues about gay life. But the real selling point is that its cast of male singers are all entirely stark naked.
The book for this show, originally conceived in 1999 by Robert Shrock, features the collective creative talents of no less than 13 comedy writers, including the likes of Bruce Vilanch, David Pevsner and Ben Schaechter. The show originally premiered Off Broadway and instantly became popular with gay audiences. Although the production has changed venues and casts several times, it’s still running in Midtown Manhattan as a weekend, late-night novelty, not only attracting horny gay audiences but screaming bachelorette partygoers, as well. The revue was even filmed in 2007 and made available on DVD. However, the live musical is available for licensing and continues to be popular, playing all around the country, especially wherever there’s a large gay male population.
This isn’t the first time Chicago audiences have enjoyed a production of this revue. Some years ago the former Bailiwick Theater, under the direction of David Zak, presented the show. It proved so popular that it ran for months. Under the guidance of Eclectic Theatre’s artistic director David Belew, this new production contains the same material, supported by expert musical direction by Metropolis Theatre’s Micky York and choreography created by actress Jessica Fisher. The lighting was designed by Maya Fein and the few costume pieces demanded are the handiwork of Catherine Tantello.
The revue features the keyboard accompaniment of Ty Miles and the musical talents of an ensemble of six handsome and courageous young performers, all of whom have no reservation about showing off their prowess, in the flesh. A few have come with some very impressive theatrical resumes, while a couple of the performers are just beginning their stage careers.
A group number opens the revue that tantalizes and teases, appropriately entitled “Gratuitous Nudity.” The first solo comes from campus cutie Danny Bradley, an Adonis so full of enthusiastic energy that he literally works up a sweat with comic songs like, “The Naked Maid” and “Perky Little Porn Star (From Skokie, Illinois).” Jonas Davidow, one of the finest singers in this cast, croons about his circumcision in “The Bliss of a Bris.” The two singers join cast mate Lance Spencer, who later offers a solo about lost love, entitled “Kris,” with their playful shower room ditty called “Fight the Urge.”
Joined by Danny and Josh, hunky Will Fleming dazzles with his macho moves in an ode to “Robert Mitchum.” Joshua A. Peterson enlists backup by two of his ensemble members to delight with “Nothing But the Radio On.” Boyishly good-looking songbird Wesley Dean Tucker is joined by Danny, Jonas and Lance in a provocative striptease called “The Entertainer,” while Wesley and Jonas each have a go at “Window to Window,” a melancholy melody about the angst of an unrequited love.
Sung by the entire company, other crowd pleasers include two coyly named numbers called “Jack’s Song” and “Members Only.” Joshua leads his cast mates in a melodic query about “Muscle Addiction,” which is set in a men’s gym and filled with lots of ogling and secretive glances. Wisely leaving the audience wanting more, this ribald revue concludes with a finale reprising the highlights of the previous 80 minutes, eventually concluding with the title tune and bows.
David Belew and his creative team have done an excellent job of making this musical revue as entertaining as possible. It’s a titillating show, cast with talented singer/dancers. Belew moves his production along at a comfortable pace, never allowing his cast to wallow in salaciousness but making sure that patrons hear and process every naughty joke and double-entendre. Micky York has guided the boys to hit all the right notes, while Jessica Lauren Fisher keeps the guys’ choreography challenging, yet never beyond their ability. The result is a harmlessly risque Vaudeville-style revue, that just happens to be performed totally in the nude. It’s an agreeable, alluring evening of adult entertainment that doesn’t take itself seriously. This show won’t change the world, but it’s a tantalizing Summer entertainment for audiences eager for something raw and a little bit naughty.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented June 9-July 2 by Eclectic Full Body Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available in person at the box office, calling them at 773-975-8150 or by going to www.Eclectic-Theatre.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.