Review of Boys in the Buff at the Stockwell Playhouse

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Boys in the Buff at Stockwell Playhouse
Boys in the Buff at Stockwell Playhouse
Musical theatre is there to entertain the theatrically non-discerning members of the public and give work to people that can sing, dance and make jazz hands, isn’t it? Obviously, the answer is a resounding No! It is true that some regular theatregoers look down on musicals as low brow but, in fact, they are missing out on so much. Think about shows like La Cage Aux Folles, Wicked or Fiddler on the Roof. Each one of these has an amazing story to tell and raises awareness of issues in a subtle way and each one is a successful musical production. So yes, it is possible to combine the frothiness of musical theatre with an important story or message. Just such a show has recently opened at the Stockwell Playhouse with the arrival of LAMBCO productions Boys in the Buff.
The show starts with our wonderful hostess, the lovely Diana Diamonte (Natalie Harman) welcoming the audience to the evening and explaining what will happen. This isn’t a show with a start-middle-end story but is a musical revue themed around our bodies and how we feel about them. And then Diana introduces to her boys – Dan (William Frazer), Max (Adam O’Shea), Phil (Julian Quijano) and Richard (Shaun Riddick). All four are young handsome and just ‘dreamy’ to look at. In fact, at first glance, you can’t help but wonder what these four young Adonises can tell someone like me – old and currently working as a stand in for the Michelin Man – about body image. But, of course, everyone – no matter how beautiful an observer may think they are – has a tale to tell about their body and what they would like to change. The story itself is around building up Phil’s courage so that he can go ‘Full Monty’ in the final scene.
Over the course of the show, Diana and her boys perform some really impressive songs that really highlight the issues that people face. A couple that really come to mind are the extremely emotional ‘Only a Joke’ which, with its memories of being in school wearing NHS specs, had me shedding a silent tear. Then there is the celebratory song ‘Big Hearted Mama’ which, by rights, should become the next great anthem.
Chris Burgess, responsible for words and music, has penned a really entertaining show with some great songs, which when put together with Director/Choreographer Sam Rayner’s dance moves, really bring a tone and look of various other musicals – definite tracings of CabaretWicked, and many others in the mix. Never preaching, the songs get their message across wonderfully and it’s really worth listening intently to the words as well as watching the lovely delivery by the cast who somehow manage to perform West End style flamboyant choreography, on a quite small stage without hitting anything or falling off the edge. Be aware, there is some audience participation involved and my advice – having gone through it – is throw yourself into it and enjoy the experience. Like Gypsy Rose Lee, I now know how to be seductive with only one item of clothing.
Boys in the Buff is a really camp, fun night out which sends its message out loud and proud in an exciting and highly entertaining way. The cast are wonderfully energetic and engaged throughout. In fact, it’s true to say everyone looked as if they were having a thoroughly good time up there from the start. Did I have a favourite among the cast? Well, William Frazer caught my eye. His Dan flirted with the audience and had a cheeky twinkle in his eye throughout. But the reality is that this was a lovely cast of good singers and dancers who showed great courage in literally giving their all to the performance. The show is suitable for everyone, as we all have a body and all have something wrong with it. I was surprised at the amount of conversation the show generated. In fact, my companion and I spent the majority of the interval talking about things we disliked about our bodies, sleeve gastrectomy, and plastic surgery. Any show that can keep the audience fully entertained and cause quite intense discussions at the same time is a powerful one. Boys in the Buff is such a show and is strongly recommended by this reviewer.
5 Star Rating
Review by Terry Eastham
www.londontheatre1.com

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