New York Observer

It is Naked Boys, More and Less

On the town with Rex Reed

Question: How many naked boys does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: At least the entire cast of NAKED BOYS SINGING!, the surprise hit revue that is packing them in down at the Actors' Playhouse in Greenwich Village.

This title is self-explanatory. Eight buffed and butt naked guys, with camera-ready bods and perky personalities to match, sing and dance their way through 16 musical numbers dedicated to stripping you of your inhibitions in a glorious celebration of the altogether. I'll be darned if they don't succeed. After the initial shock wears off, you get so accustomed to the nudity that it no longer gets in the way of the entertainment. The effect is strangely liberating. It's only 90 minutes long, and by the time it is over, you'll feel overdressed in a tank top.

Thirteen collaborators (including Bette Midler's chief writer Bruce Vilanch) are responsible for the songs and skits, ranging from ribald to poignant, all neatly directed by Robert Schrock and choreographed by Jeffry Denman, although I am still trying to figure out why Carl D. White is credited with "costume design". You go in wondering how many numbers they can dream up in which nudity is appropriate and marvel at their ingenuity. In addition to the steam bath number, the nude calendar-modeling number and the pornography number, there's an entire aria consisting of the different synonyms for male genitalia. In a song called "Robert Mitchum," a sad sack, sympathetically out of his element among the body builders at the gym, sweetly wishes he had lived in the days before collagen and hormones when a droopy-faced icon like Mitchum could be a sex symbol. The innocence is ingratiating, even when eight naked men singing "I Beat My Meat" turn out to be butchers.

Some of their talents are bigger than their plumbing and the result is more (and in one of two cases, less) than you might hope for. The material is clever, but I doubt if many people will show up to discover new songwriters. But you get used to the nudity the way your eyes get used to the dark in a power failure, and after a few numbers it's no different from watching a chorus line of hairy Ziegfeld Girls. The women in the audience did not look like Chippendale's veterans, but they applauded louder than anyone. I tell you, these naked guys do, pardon the pun, make a point. I saw NAKED BOYS SINGING! in a night so hot you could fry an egg on your kneecap, and they were the coolest people in the theater.

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