Towards a deeper Understanding of Robert Schrock’s Naked Boys Singing
There is a subtle beauty in being exposed, a quiet strength in allowing oneself to be naked for the entire world to see. Just ask the cast of the Chicago production of Robert Schrock’s Naked Boys Singing!, now in its second record-breaking year at Bailiwick Repertory Theater with David Zak directing.
The Boys in this production wear their nakedness like a badge of honor. With songs by Stephen Bates, Marie Cain, Perry Hart, Shelly Markham, Jim Morgan, David Pevsner, Rayme Sciaroni, Mark Savage, Ben Schaechter, Robert Schrock, Trance Thompson, Bruce Vilanch, and Mark Winkler, this production is truly a feast for not only the eyes, but the ears as well.
So much has already been written about Naked Boys Singing! that to pen yet another critique would seem redundant, at least to this writer. Yet after recently being warmed and delighted by the charming assemblage of showtunes, gags, dancing and celebrating offered by the Chicago production of NBS, it comes to mind that there are some important points yet to be made.
Naked Boys Singing! is, if nothing else, a celebration. A boisterous and witty melange of song, dance and repartee which bravely focuses on the eternal beauty of the naked male body in all its variations. One look at the Chicago company of NBS (Scott Thomas, Tim Gallagher, Brook Richardson, Antonio Zayas, John Cardone, Brian Givens, Keith Stoneking, Craig Lewis and Dan Hickey) and you will immediately recognize that Bob Schrock set out to celebrate the beauty of the naked male form.
But beneath the light-hearted humor of “Perky Little Porn Star,” the earthy sensuality of “Muscle Addiction,” the sing-along refrain of “Nothin’ But The Radio On,” and the belly laughs of “Pizza Boy” and “I Beat My Meat” lies a different message, all the more beautiful for its subtlety. We are learning about vulnerability, and by the end of the performance we have been disarmingly challenged towards a risk to be known for who we are beneath all the clothes, facades and pretenses.
You will laugh, you will sing along, you will probably marvel at the Boys, their bodies and their shtick. But be prepared to shed a tear as Scott Thomas calls out in song to the lover he lost to AIDS in the haunting, “Kris, Look what You’ve Missed.” You just might have your heartstrings tugged as Brian Givens sings the refrain of the poignantly wistful “Window to Window.” It’s a pretty safe bet that there are few gay (or straight, for that matter) men (and women) who can’t relate to the strikingly powerful image of people making constant eye contact “Window to Window” who find themselves totally unable to reach out and connect beyond those daily furtive glances.
simple play. A captivating message. Naked Boys Singing! is brassy, bawdy, naughty
and nice. But to get lost in the nakedness, the posing and the showtunes is to
miss the heart of the play, the reason for the celebration. Naked Boys Singing!
is, at its core, about the joys of being vulnerable. Naked and free in an otherwise
forbidding world. We celebrate the opportunity we all share to rejoice in who
we are underneath it all. Naked Boys Singing! challenges us to be vulnerable.
Naked in spirit and genuine of heart. Whether or not we choose to shed our clothes
is immaterial, we can let the wonderful actors on stage do that. Meanwhile we
ponder the notion that being vulnerable is something to celebrate, a goal we can
work towards. It’s a message even those with less than gym-perfect bodies can