Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Naked Boys Singing! Malthouse, May 5, 2012 ***

Created by Robert Schrock
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, until May 12, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3
Glenn Ferguson, Nicholas Gentile, Joshua Harrison, Chris McGovern, Mitchell Roberts, Elijah Rohner, Tye Shepherd

THERE'S NO POINT DISCUSSING THE COSTUMES in Naked Boys Singing because these seven boys really are singing naked, apart from the occasional bowler hat, towel or jocks.

The show, created and originally directed by Robert Schrock in LA, recently closed a 12-year season Off-Broadway that shamelessly targeted a gay male audience and, in an inventive marketing ploy, hens’ nights.

This Australian production hits all the same buttons with 13 toe-tapping, show tunes about being a gay man, accepting the male body with all its quirks, and celebrating nudity.

However, despite its shallow attempt at social commentary, the show is really a perv-fest for the gay men in the audience, some of whom spent the entire show pointing out which of the lean, youthful boy’s bodies they preferred.

The songs may not be ground-breaking but they are entertaining, ranging from the peppy, opening number, Gratuitous Nudity, in which the boys wear only a bowler hat, to the cheeky Naked Maid and Perky Little Porn Star (’from way out west in Melton’).

Nick Gentile’s rendition of the melodic ballad, Window to Window, is affecting, and his voice has good control and tone.

Tye Shepherd is pert and amusing performing The Entertainer in fishnets and bustier reminiscent of Liza in Cabaret.

Jonathan Worsley’s direction and Adam Williams’ choreography keep the songs animated but lack originality and do not challenge the performers.

The main problem is that the show delivers only part of its promise because, although the boys are naked, most of their singing voices are limited which leaves the songs without sufficient punch.

Such a show could use music and satire to challenge social issues about nudity and homosexuality but this show is pure entertainment.  That demands powerful singing and exceptional dancing, which this production does not deliver.

It might be more satisfying to a broader, musical theatre audience to see a cast of naked men of different shape and sizes with extraordinary singing voices performing a range of songs that are not necessarily about being gay or about nudity, and see whether the voices are so good that we stop noticing the nakedness.

By Kate Herbert

Director / Producer: Jonathan Worsley
Choreographer: Adam Williams
Musical Director: Sheena Crouch
Piano: Michael Bourkas

Cast: Glenn Ferguson, Nicholas Gentile, Joshua Harrison,
Chris McGovern, Mitchell Roberts, Elijah Rohner, Tye Shepherd.

Contributing writers: Stephen Bates, Marie Cain, Shelly Markham, Jim Morgan, David Pevsner, Rayme Sciaroni, Mark Savage, Ben Schaechter, Robert Schrock, Mark Winkler and Bruce Vilanch. 

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