What comes after “The Full Monty?” Don’t be shy — you’ve asked yourself this question.
Well, the answer is here, at D.C.’s 1409 Playbill Cafe near Logan Circle: What Kelly Ripa of “Live with Regis and Kelly” once called “the three greatest words in the English language — “Naked Boys Singing!”
And yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title.
Six boys in fact, and naked as jaybirds while on stage for almost the entirety of this 70-minute production of the long-running off-Broadway musical revue that began there in 1998 and then surfaced in 2007 as a musical comedy film of the same title.
This show — produced by D.C.’s LGBT arts troupe, Ganymede Arts, and directed by its versatile and multi-talented artistic director Jeffrey Johnson — is performed in the intimate back room of the Playbill Cafe from May 7 through June 13.
And “intimate” of course means you’re up close and personal with all six of the naked boys, but please don’t get carried away and strip down yourself and sing along.
Of course male nudity is the whole premise of the show and its mostly clever 16 songs, with piano accompaniment, some of which are comic and others are poignant, with credits for 13 writers including the gay stand-up comic Bruce Vilanch. But from its cheerful and sassy opening number, “Gratuitous Nudity,” an open invitation to ogle the merchandise, which of course everyone in the audience is doing at first, from then on the attention turns to their personalities — and yes, of course, their bodies but also their faces — and (since it’s a cabaret-style revue) their voices.
But the opening come-on is clear. “Tonight it’s all right to stare,” they sing. “Tonight you won’t wonder what’s under our underwear!”
In fact, this opening song says it all: “Tonight, get ready for something risqué, tonight we throw inhibition away/why even bother to make a fuss, when it’s obvious to us/ you’re here to see gratuitous nudity.”
Each of the six cast members gets the chance to strut his vocal stuff with a solo number. And the other songs, in a pastiche of styles alternating between substance and silliness, essentially “debrief” — literally the meaning of nakedness when it is emotional (“Windows to the Soul”) or rent-boy (“Little Porn Star”) — and not only and not chiefly sexual.
Most of the songs address the real poignancy of men in their most naked moments — unguarded, defenses down, vulnerable. One is even a wistful lament for a late lover sung with all the sad, almost Proustian reverie of the remembrance of things past. More comically, “Fight the Urge” depicts the funny pathos of gay boys in the high school locker room, hoping their anatomy does not betray them as jocks parade around both buff and in the buff.
The show has been staged in both New York City and London as well as throughout North America, Europe and as far away as Australia, Brazil and South Africa. Yes, it is obviously aimed primarily at gay audiences, but also at bachelorette parties. It is good clean (if adult) fun, though taking your Aunty Millie from Peoria might be beyond the pale.
Johnson, who can also be seen on stage himself as “Galactica” and in “Edie Beale Live,” directs with loads of boy-philiac charm as well as theatrical savoir-faire. And his cast in this Chippendale glee club is filled with standout emerging talent. For example, 25-year-old baritone Aaron Alexander who gave up theatre after high school in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., but recently “kind of fell back into it, by doing a lot of karaoke” as he told the Washington Blade in an interview.
“So I auditioned for this show and I got it,” he declared. “In fact, I really didn’t know I could sing until my sophomore year in high school and no one in my family can sing at all!”
He came out during his sophomore year, and faced “no issues, it was pretty easy” doing so, in fact,” he recalled.
Another cast member, 22-year-old Johnny Simmonds, described his own back story this way: “I’ve always done musical theatre – like in high school and then community theatre in the Columbia area,” his home town in Maryland where he currently lives. He has been a Ganymede member since 2006.
“My day job is a night job,” he points out — working full-time on the night shift in a security job for the U.S. government. “But I’m a performer 24/7.” He calls his solo, “Nothing But the Radio On,” “very much a Playboy spread of Marilyn Monroe and a Playgirl spread of Burt Reynolds.”
Tickets to “Naked Boys Singing” should disappear and are on sale now at www.ganymedearts.org.
‘Naked Boys Singing’
May 7-June 13
1409 Playbill Cafe