“It does take a special kind of performer to do the show,” explained Tim Evanicki, producer and director of “Naked Boys Singing!,” a musical revue opening this weekend at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale. “They have to be comfortable, 100 percent.”
Evanicki and executive producer Ronnie Larsen auditioned dozens of actors in New York City before settling on the six who would star in their revival of the 1999 Off Broadway hit. The company will launch a national tour from South Florida, with performances already booked in Atlanta and Savannah next year.
"Obviously, the nudity hooks curious audiences into purchasing tickets," said Evanicki, a Juilliard grad now based in Orlando. "But, after the first song, audiences become so charmed by the show and the songs, they quickly seem to forget the cast is performing naked."
Larsen, playwright of another Off Broadway hit, "Making Porn," said the timing for the revival is appropriate, given the tense presidential campaign and endless barrage of nasty political ads on television:
"This is one of those shows that allows both performers and audiences to cut loose just a little bit. At a time when we're forced to take life too seriously, this show offers an opportunity to escape and have some fun at the theater."
The six-member cast sings such "cheeky" numbers as "Gratuitous Nudity," "The Bliss of a Bris," "Fight the Urge" and "Perky Little Porn Star." The show is popular with both straight and LGBT audiences alike, as well as "naturists" who bought out an entire performance of the show.
“The songs really poke fun at the high points and low points of being a guy,” said Evanicki, who also is the managing producer of the Footlight Theatre at the Parliament House in Orlando. Evanicki will be mounting a second cast there in early December.
The touring cast includes Quentin Bruno, Jonte Culpepper, Tim Garnham, Anthony Massarotto, Stephen Millett and Charles Walljasper Robinson.
“Audiences are generally surprised to discover there is nothing overtly sexual about the show,” he added. “Nothing lewd at all. The performers just happen to be naked.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t special considerations for the director and local choreographer Andy Fiacco. The performers make creative use of props throughout the show and the choreographer must be sensitive to certain types of moves.
“You won’t see them doing the splits on stage,” laughed Evanicki.
Performer Anthony Massarotto certainly isn’t daunted by the challenge.
“It has always been on my bucket list to be nude for a show! I imagined it to be a liberating and exciting experience that, if done for the right reasons, really could strengthen the plot or impact of the show…I think family and friends have more concerns about me performing in the nude than I do. Though supportive, I've heard at least a couple times, please, just don't get into porn," said Massarotto.
“Naked Boys Singing!” will be performed Nov. 3 through Dec. 4 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 and $50 at RonnieLarsen.com.