Over the years, Pandora Productions has staged brave, groundbreaking theatrical works exploring different facets of LGBT life, featuring heavyweights like Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “I Am My Own Wife” and the Holocaust drama “Bent” alongside musicals and comedies like “Oh, My Godmother!” and “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche.” But producing artistic director Michael J. Drury says one show kept cropping up over and over when audiences made suggestions – the musical revue “Naked Boys Singing.” And for years, he resisted the call.
“When I did finally listen to it and read it, I saw the deeper meaning about being vulnerable,” says Drury. “Being naked isn’t just a matter of being unclothed. It’s about being vulnerable and revealing yourself.”
“Because it has deeper meaning is why it landed in our programming. Otherwise, I don’t think it would have. If it was just sensational and gratuitous, I don’t think I would have given it a second look,” he adds.
“Naked Boys Singing” opens Thursday. A gay-themed comic musical revue inspired by Vaudeville and musical theater, the show celebrates the male form with numbers cheeky and emotional alike. It’s a long-running New York cult favorite, opening its first off-Broadway run in 1999.
Finding seven singers willing to perform an 85-minute show in the nude isn’t as easy as it sounds. First slated for last October, Drury had to postpone the production when casting proved challenging. Now, the show serves as an unofficial kick-off for the 2013-14 season, which begins in earnest in September with the screwball comedy musical “Boy Meets Boy.” The upcoming season will also include Kentucky author Silas House’s “This Is My Heart for You,” a drama about an Appalachian town divided by a gay rights discrimination case. House’s play premiered at Berea College last year and received a staged reading this summer at the prestigious Contemporary American Theatre Festival.
So, if you’re wondering? Yes, they’re naked. Yes, they’re singing. But Drury says there’s more to “Naked Boys Singing” than a provocative premise. He credits director Christephor Gilbert with establishing a surprisingly thoughtful tone from the top of the show with a number titled (of course) “Gratuitous Nudity.”
“The way he has staged it allows for a slow reveal. And once they are revealed, he allows the audience to absorb that vulnerability in a really powerful way which sets the tone for the entire evening,” says Drury. “I’m really proud of how he’s worked that and brought more meaning to the piece than you might naturally think.”
If you’re wondering, there’s not really a plot. The show features seven men singing, mostly in the nude. Sometimes they sing about being naked, and sometimes they’re just naked while they sing. The songs feature a variety of styles, from kicky production numbers to a rap number about going to the gym. Director Gilbert also choreographs – yes, there’s even dancing.
“They’re not doing jetés across the stage or anything, but they’re doing some kicks,” says Drury with a laugh.
“Naked Boys Singing” runs August 1-11 in the Henry Clay Theatre (604 S. 3rd St.).