Top critical review
43 people found this helpful
on December 17, 2007
The opening number in the DVD of the long-running stage show "Naked Boys Singing" about says it all. "Gratuitous Nudity" is the bait that lured many a theater goer to drop in on this musical revue, running in Los Angeles or NYC pretty much since its inception in 1998. Having made the cultural leap from gay cult show to a broader audience, the gay musical enthuasiasts who first attended the shows found themselves mixed in with the bachelorette party-types and the curious, granting "Naked Boys Singing" its ongoing success. One of the telling things about the show actually comes from the bonus feature "Nuts and Bolts," where the creator of the show reveals that "Naked Boys Singing" was born of desperation. His theater was about to close due to lack of funds, so he tried to think of the most obvious thing he could to sell tickets. The top two? Musicals and Naked boys.
Which proves a rather sad tenant about a sizable percentage of the gay male populous: put the words "Naked Boys" in front of anything and they'll rush to see/buy it. Not to say this DVD is bird-vomit, far from it. It is clever cabaret, with numbers running clever (the aforementioned "Gratuitous Nudity") cloying ("Perky Little Pornstar") and even heartbreaking ("Kris, Look What You've Missed" - featuring Jaymes Hodges in the show's best number). You're also being treated to 10 men hitting the stage in the Full Monty. Once you get past that initial novelty, you're - again - left to contemplate the 16 songs performed here.
At a certain level, you're screwed. The fact that this is a NAKED! GAY! MUSICAL! is blasted at you from almost every song to the point of redundancy. Puns about parts abound with the big message being that celebrating your body is OK, love is good when you find it, and heck, we're just having a big ol' goofy time up here. After awhile, the gimmick starts wearing thin, and the filmmakers obviously saw this coming. The show, shot part live and parts staged for the cameras, allows for some Busby Berkeley type choreography shot from overhead to give the show some dimension. It is a welcome diversion from the otherwise distractingly old school film effects.
Ultimately, despite its perky cast and eagerness to accommodate, you're still watching the film version of a stage musical...and a musical based on a singular gimmick. The cast is well suited to their roles (pun intended) and the documentary feature shows that they were actually chosen for more than their (ahem) good looks. Still, the songs didn't really stay with me once the credits were rolling, and the notion tickles the back of your brain that Tony Bennett or Pavarotti probably would not have passed the auditions because - voices or not - they would not have fit into the first two thirds of the concept. "Naked Boys Singing" is exactly what you would expect it to be, which is great for those who wouldn't likely get the opportunity to see this live on the coasts. Just don't get yourself excited by thinking it will be anything more, because frankly, this comes off as something where you really had to be there.
A modest (or is that immodest) success as a film exercise, the DVD of "Naked Boys Singing" will give you plenty to look at and opportunity to use the pause and zoom buttons of your remote. And maybe you'll hum "I beat my meat" after the show is over.