BWW Reviews: The Skivvies Bring Comedy to Valentine's Day Live at City Theatre
In another decade, and not necessarily a more liberal one even, The Skivvies would be a household name. One can easily imagine non-competitive variety shows hosting The Skivvies as regulars, or even a string of repeat appearances for the "undie-rock duo" on "The Gong Show." Alas, the changing cultural landscape has left Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley's brilliant novelty act merely Youtube famous.
Like all good novelty acts, The Skivvies is both high-concept enough to describe with simple, attention-getting language, and entertaining enough to sustain itself once the initial joke has worn off. In a press-release-worthy nutshell, The Skivvies is a combination concert, comedy sketch and performance-art piece. Two singer-comedian-multi-instrumentalists, the lovely Lauren Molina and Nick Cearly, strip down to their underwear and then perform cover versions of dozens of songs at a time, while playing acoustic instruments (mostly guitar, ukulele and cello, although they dabble in many more, leaving the stage looking like a cluttered middle school music clasroom). As their house drummer keeps the groove, they sing, play and switch instruments at the drop of a hat, darting about the stage to pick up this or that quirky musical toy. The overall effect is somewhere between that of The Rocky Horror Show, a vintage Barenaked Ladies or They Might Be Giants concert, and an exceptionally funny character duo on Saturday Night Live.
Both Molina and Cearley take turns playing straight man and clown over the course of the night, but Lauren Molina, who has previously shined on the cello in productions of Sweeney Todd and Marry Me A Little, plays the more deadpan role overall, carrying more of the complicated musical arrangements. She does, however, switch from serious to wry to sexy to over-the-top at the drop of a hat, especially when she drops her mainstream vocal stylings to use her operatic upper range as a mock guitar solo or synthesizer riff. On melodica, ukulele and several more instruments, Nick Cearley milks every song for innuendo, gay double entendre, or lyrical absurdity. As his strong pop tenor extends upwards into countertenor and beyond with falsetto, Cearley often takes the female vocal lead, allowing Molina to harmonize with him.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Skivvies show without local guests, and Pittsburgh did not disappoint. City Theatre provided a nightly quartet of local favorites who came, stripped and sang with the band. Hayley Nielsen's drinking medley, which Molina described as a "love song to alcohol," was an audience favorite, but the standout of the evening was Michael "Mikey" Campayno, best known to non-Pittsburghers as Rohlf from The Sound Of Music Live. Campayno, whose entrance in jockey shorts and sunglasses recalls a taller Tom Cruise in Risky Business, not only sang and bantered with the band, but played xylophone and melodica as well, making him the only guest to provide musical accompaniment.
The Skivvies may have only stayed one weekend, but a show this good will be playing on the road for a long time. If you didn't catch them this time around, be on the lookout for their next visit, and let City Theatre know Pittsburgh wants more undie-rock!