New York Times

Window-Shopping: Is It Mr. Right or Just Mr. Raw?

By Anita Gates

Has it really been 30 years since Broadway audiences gasped at the sight of the cast of "Hair" standing nude on stage for a few minutes? Now theatergoers at the Actors' Playhouse in Greenwich Village gaze casually and smile good-naturedly as the cast of "Naked Boys Singing" performs its lightly teasing opening number, "Gratuitous Nudity," and much of the rest of the show, equally unclothed. This is an affable, appealing production with a versatile and talented cast.

"Naked Boys Singing" isn't for everybody -- especially sweet Aunt Rose from Hooterville, unless she's partial to symbolic re-creations of masturbation and crude terms for it -- and it's hardly brilliant, but it should please its target audience, and the rest of us who can, in the right mood, appreciate slightly prurient songs about circumcision.

The production consists mostly of lighthearted songs, with titles like "The Naked Maid," "Muscle Addiction" and "Nothin' but the Radio On." "Robert Mitchum" is a particularly likable song-and-dance number, a tribute to the days when men, even movie stars, weren't so perfectly gym-toned ("I know he was a little beefy and soft" and yet "a perfect 10 back in the days of real men"). But real poignancy pops up in the middle of this show in "Kris, Look What You've Missed," a sad ballad addressed to a man who died of AIDS, telling him about all the things he didn't live to see ("Richard got fat"; "The whole world's on line"). It is sung by Jonathan Brody, during a reverse striptease, with effectively understated emotion.

"Window to Window," sung by Adam Michaels, and its reprise, sung by Sean McNally, is also touching. And it's a good example of the sociosexual assumptions required to appreciate the show. If you don't think two total strangers spying on and admiring each other while they both stand naked and visible through the windows of their respective apartments is an acceptable way to look for Mr. Right, you won't approve of this production.

"Naked Boys Singing" lists 13 writers, and the lyrics to "Perky Little Porn Star" indicate that at least one, David Pevsner, must be a major old-movies buff. A mention of Tab Hunter is one thing, but Deanna Durbin? Come on, some younger gay men have to be told who Judy Garland was. (Of course Deanna and Judy were early rivals, so maybe it's a big inside joke.)