Performer gives us an inside scoop as the Off Broadway hit helicopters into Atlanta for a three-week run at 7 Stages Theatre on a national tour.
By Matthew Holley
On January 4, Atlanta is set to have a ball. Or two. Or twelve, actually when Naked Boys Singing! returns to the local stage as part of a multi-city tour. The producers, and the six-guy cast that appears completely starkers for the duration of the show, are ready to show you a good time.
The Vaudeville-style extravaganza originally premiered in 1998 to sky-rocketing reviews. Since then, it has taunted, tantalized an thrilled audiences around the globe, whether dropping trou on stages, or in the 2007 adapted movie musical.
The charming and cheeky six-member cast bounces, bulges and belts out camp numbers such as “Gratuitous Nudity,” “The Bliss of a Bris,” “Fight the Urge,” and the ever-so randy favorite “Perky Little Porn Star,” while being endowed with pitch-perfect voices and presence.
Ahead of the latest production baring its Georgia debut, David Atlanta spoke with Australian cast member Tim Garnham, who in turn lifted the sheet on all of the show’s secrets. He lets us in on audition tidbits, birthday suit bonding with the cast, how auditions were like a gay mixer, and an ill-fated beach day that resulted in quite a few pink bottoms.
How did you become one of the “Naked Boys?”
With Naked Boys Singing! being one of the longest running off-Broadway shows, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’d heard lots about the show and knew it’d be right up my alley, being a campy, cheeky and inappropriate musical. They’re a lot of fun, but also a huge challenge as an actor for comedic timing and to perform as vulnerable as we are on stage.
What was the audition process like?
Similar to a gay mixer, except without the alcohol and a required time to get naked. Some people were very eager from the get go. I think there was one straight guy there feeling very confused about his choices and another still figuring it out, but when there’s naked dudes together in a show with no females, your most likely to pull a gay crowd of actors.
The content of the show touches on gay struggle and has many relatable scenarios, so it’s natural to a majority of our real life stories. I think everyone was so supportive and proud of himself on the audition day, so it was a liberating moment regardless of the outcome.
Did you have any reservations about performing nude?
I thought of it as a challenge to dazzle them with my performance rather than how much I was packing. That made it a bit more do-able.
The characters I play from a Jewish father to a naked maid make it a distracting task to any judgements. As long as you’re entertaining with the narrative, audiences are pretty pleased.
Did the cast have any bonding experiences to feel comfortable together?
It’s sofunny you’d say that, because we talk about how comfortable we are now with each other and our bodies, more so than some of our longest friendships. After spending so much time together nude, you’re in your most vulnerable state and you’re all the same.
I think that’s why it felt so trustworthy and supportive with one another from the beginning, knowing we only have each other to understand. Sometimes it was hard to get on stage after a quick KFC or Burger King run between shows, because you didn’t feel so sexy, so we needed to be a good team to boost each other up!
Is there a part of the show you are the most or least excited about?
I’m always least excited but at the same time most excited to start off the show with my “Naked Maid” solo. It sets the tone of the show and involves water spraying and business card throwing to the audience, as well as naked cartwheeling and penis helicoptering. That can take some people by surprise so early on.
But I do love “The Entertainer” number as well. It’s a jazzy showstopper with all the sass you want in a musical number.
What do you hope the audience take away from the show?
I know everyone is thoroughly entertained! Without a doubt! But I want audiences to feel more connected to humanity, because no matter what race, body shape, sexual orientation or identity we are, we are all together.
This show is a huge escape and tension reliever with what’s happening in the world right now, so it’s come at a good time for anyone needing a good laugh.
Do you have a favorite experience from tour thus far?
We have a no tan line rule, which made it difficult to lay out in Florida. The boys and I went to a nude beach near Miami, and some bums came back very burnt for our performance that night, a lot of makeup was required.
We also got to learn a lot about our history at the AIDS museum in Fort Lauderdale too, on a private tour, that I personally really enjoyed. It gave me a lot of pride and inspiration for our community. The fight against the stigma of HIV and equality still exists and we must not forget what we’ve lost and how far society still needs to come.
Naked Boys Singing! plays Jan. 4 – Jan. 22 at 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. NE. For tickets and more information, visit 7stages.org.