With a title like Boys in the Buff, and musical numbers with titles such as ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’, ‘We Can Strip For You!’ and ‘My Foreskin And Me’, what was I to expect? This wasn’t exactly going to be a Greek tragedy. But, interestingly, this production isn’t all about singing and dancing and having a good time (though there’s plenty of that). The spoken dialogue repeatedly returns to the themes of body image and being (un)comfortable in people’s own skin; the musical numbers do little, dramaturgically, other than reinforce the points already made or about to be made either in a soliloquy or a conversation between characters. However, by no means does the show drag. Rattling through 19 songs in well under two hours, with an interval, the pace is kept up with energy and enthusiasm by a small but talented cast.
Occasionally, it does feel as though the point about being people being free to be who they wish to be is being pressed home a little more forcefully than is strictly necessary. “We all have insecurities,” Diana (Natalie Harman) almost smiles, as though it were a nodding wink to the audience. Minutes later, she muses, “I think we can all relate to that”, ‘that’ being a personal story from one of the four ‘boys’ under her charge. I found the statement amusing; I didn’t relate to the story in question, before realising that ‘we’ probably meant Diana and her boys.
But when the fourth wall was breached, it was done with some style. ‘Audience Participation’, a self-explanatory musical number, allowed someone a few minutes of fame (you are, of course, at liberty to politely refuse, and they’ll talk someone else into getting up on stage instead). The question is also asked of the audience whether they would wish the boys to strip. The response is rather inevitable, and reminded me of the end of We Will Rock You, in which the audience was asked, having been either subjected to or pleasured with songs made famous by the rock band Queen all evening, “Do you want ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” I suppose there’s just something about the psychology of power being seemingly given to the people, and it is, at the end of the day, nice to be asked.
Within the first few minutes alone the tributes to other notable and famous musicals are evident, something which barely lets up. This show isn’t, let’s be honest, going to convert anyone who doesn’t already like musicals, but for those who love them, there’s much to be enjoyed from both letting the song-and- dance wash over them as well as identifying all the other shows that this one borrows a phrase or a style of tune from. And it’s all there – the ballads, the up-tempo tunes, even a barbershop quartet number.
Each of the boys gets their own solo song, and character development is sufficient, at least for a show of this nature. Dan (William Frazer) is all too quick to start yanking his clothes off, for reasons that become clear in a late revelation. At the other end of the spectrum is Phil (Julian Quijano), who I liken to one of those youngsters tries to pluck up the courage to dress salaciously for Pride in London (or Pride in any other major city) for the first time: once the realisation that what has been proposed is actually going to happen, there are reservations and fears.
The choreography (Sam Rayner and Robbie O’Reilly) is rather demanding of its cast, as is the vocal range. Richard (Shaun Riddick) has a backstory not altogether dissimilar from that of many who went through boarding school, while Max (Adam O’Shea) claimed to weigh twenty stones at one point; there’s no stopping him dancing and moving about in the way he does now. A Chorus Line meets Mrs Henderson Presents in this joyous and uplifting production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Diana Diamonte is the hostess of the evening, who inspires her ‘boys’ to explore something we are all interested in: bodies! Too fat? Too thin? Never exercise? Gym crazy? Addicted to diets? Hate how you look in the nude? Then this musical revue is for YOU!
Diana and her ‘boys’ explore the nooks and crannies of their bodies and discover 101 ways to look fabulous, providing an inspirational evening celebrating bodies of all shapes and sizes! This musical comedy is all about body image and our relationship with our own bodies.
You’ve briefly seen The Full Monty, you’ve heard Naked Boys Singing, you’ve winced at Puppetry of the Penis, you were amazed by The Naked Magicians, you’ve listened to the Naked Boys Reading, but finally it’s here, what you’ve all been waiting for, the full package: Boys in the Buff – the Musical!
It’s a riotous evening of fun, flesh and fabulous song.
SCRIPT AND SONGS by Chris Burgess
Additional songs by BB Cooper, Sarah Travis and Cathy Shostak
Diana Diamonte Natalie Harman
Max Adam O’Shea
Richard Shaun Riddick
Dan William Frazer
Phil Julian Quijano
Writer Chris Burgess
Producer LAMBCO Productions
Director Sam Rayner
Musical Director Joe Louis Robinson
Associate Choreographer Robbie O’Reilly
Technical Designer Richard Lambert
Booking to 29th July 2017