BWW Reviews: NAKED BOYS SINGING Delivers ┬"Gratuitous Nudity┬" and Little More at The Palm Canyon Theatre
Everyone is familiar with the old adage "You Get What You Pay For". Never was it more true than with NAKED BOYS SINGING, now playing for a limited engagement at The Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs. You get exactly what you pay for - six naked boys singing. So who could complain? They don't promise "the best songs and the wittiest lyrics you've every heard" or "Broadway caliber staging and choreography", or even "the most talented males singers we could find in New York singing naked". Simply "naked boys singing", period. So, what's to critique? As I write, I am determined to labor over finding just the right words for this review because I promised myself I wouldn't fall into the trap of ANY double entendre "genital puns" when describing the production.
The opening number, Gratuitous Nudity, is clever and entertaining and promises a wildly funny, surprising and provocative evening ahead. Sadly, the show doesn't always hold up its end of the bargain. Once the boys are naked, where do you go from there? There is no "tease" left - the entire "tease" was laid bare in the first three minutes of the show. So, the only reason to stay for another ninety minutes is the material. And that is the dilemma. The majority of the lyrics are predictable - the kind of lyric where you see the punch-line coming, in rhyme, three lines ahead. A great lyric is a surprise. There were very few surprises. A couple of exceptions were "The Bris" and "Perky Porn Star" ... but they were exceptions.
The cast was uneven. There were a couple of stellar voices (Juan and Chris were by far the standout talents) but the others had trouble "holding their own" (now, don't go there) in the vocal department. But again, they never said "naked boys singing well". The "Send For Me" number (Eric and David) was totally miscast to be believable - it was one of the few numbers in the show that pretended to have any emotional merit - and, truth be told, is just not a very good song. Why it appeared as reprise in Act Two is beyond me, except to fill time and give Act Two a little more weight. Eric was energetic and charming throughout and brings a lot of genuine comedic abilities to the troupe. David, on the other hand, took exuberance to the extreme and his performance was a little grating - and, in my opinion, he was given far more solo stage time that his talents merited. Matthew seemed to be under utilized but played the "hunk" role well. With the exception of "Perky Porn Star", Steve was pretty much invisible.
The boys appeared from time to time "in clothing" and those were a few of the shows strongest moments - until the obligatory "it's the second verse so I have to get my pants off again" set in. In fact, there were a couple of songs - "The Entertainer" and "Nothin' But The Radio On" come to mind - that might have been stronger, and even sexier, if the director had surprised us by never having the actors strip down at all. Clothes On/Clothes Off even became predictable and formula. (By the way - Juan's "Nothin' But The Radio On" was probably the most successful moment in the show and by far the vocally superior one.)
The show is never offensive. In fact, the only thing I (and I was not alone) was personally offended by was one of the cast members who had a perpetual semi-stiff erection throughout the show and purposefully tried to make that his most obvious talent. (He shall remain nameless because I do not want to further embarrass him). It was more than obvious that this was not a "natural condition" as we witnessed him "fluff" - yes even on stage - when he believed audience attention was elsewhere. And, he was so "over the top" and broad in his interpretation of the choreography that it only drew further attention to his "bouncy" performance. That was offensive, unnecessary and moved his performance dangerously close to "soft porn". (In this case ... "not-so-soft" porn).
The Palm Canyon Theatre was sold out to capacity and the audience seemed to have a genuinely good time. Why not? They got what they paid for. So, in summary, for me, NAKED BOYS SINGING delivers a very clever theatrical concept -- half-cocked. (Well, maybe just one double entendre). All in all it is a fun night in the theatre and if not a "must see" at least worth the price of admission.
NAKED BOYS SINGING runs at The Palm Canyon through March 31. For tickets or further information call (760) 323-5123 or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org.