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A reader contacted me on Grindr on Sunday morning to say:
I skipped Broadway Bares last year after getting reamed for taking photos at a Solo Strips, but returned Sunday for Broadway Bares 25: Top Bottoms of Burlesque, the silver-anniversary installment of Jerry Mitchell's unfortunately-still-necessary AIDS charity show that rounds up as many hot and talented chorus boys and girls from Broadway and Broadway-adjacent (and a few who just have roommates on Broadway) to put on a one-night only, two-times only, razzle-dazzle-'em-at-any-cost show.
I decided to go back because I missed the good time and knew the main show wouldn't be policed, photo-wise. Thing is, the dancers always seem to like having photos to share, people affiliated with the show “like” them on Instagram, etc. Where we stood, everyone around us had their phones out. I think the rule about photos is a misguided fear that it will bite into the show's revenues. In reality, since it's a show that happens once a year, seeing photos from it just encourages people to come the following year, and/or to seek out the merch. I have had a lot of readers say they now travel in for the show thanks to the photos I've posted. So hopefully it helps.
You would think this year's title would mean it was going to be 100% up my alley (I am the original ASSMAN), but I found it to have no more or less tail than past editions, save for its hilariously sexy opening—the curtain lifted to just above waist-level to reveal a bevy of dimpled booties peeking out at the crowd. It was not unlike waving a turkey at a bunch of starving bums on Thanksgiving and saucily asking, “White meat or dark?”
Directed by Jerry Mitchell and Nick Kenkel, who choreographed it with Laya Barak, Jim Cooney, Armando Farfan Jr., Peter Gregus, Ryan Lyons, Brice Mousset, Rachelle Rak, Michael Lee Scott, Kellen Stancil and Sidney Erik Wright, the show loosely followed the travails of a wannabe played by Nick Adams, he of the Mario Lopez-threatening biceps.
Adams starts out too shy to be a stripper, but luckily falls in with the wrong crowd and everything works (and comes) out in the end.
Along the way, the show included 11 tight numbers (it felt super fast this go-round, and I hated the Hammerstein venue as compared to the more spacious and now vanished Roseland), often takes on classic show tunes, always ending with a little more nudity than you might encounter in a locker room.
“Take It from the Top” was a sterling opener starring Harvey Fierstein and Callan Bergmann, a one-time Mr. Broadway, the latter of which as a great opener. Bergmann's were choice cheeks to inaugurate a buns-hun show, and he was one of the performers who really shone this year.
“Un-Dress Rehearsal” was snappy as hell, had the best underwear and starred two dancers who sold the number so hard you couldn't help envisioning them dancing horizontally.
As far as sheer entertainment value, the show couldn't and didn't go wrong with Bianca Del Rio, who showed that Joan Rivers run deep in her crusty role as a major theater diva, whose silhouetted strip was a hoot and a half in “Shadow Play” Seeing her break up later when hysterical Lesli Margherita sold her '30s quaveriness extra-hard was the night's biggest howl. “Does this bitch have Parkinson's?” she quipped.
The absolute highlight for me was “Casting Couch.”
First, it was hot as hell, featuring the new (to me) dancer who caught my eye the most effortlessly this year, Casey Lee Ross. With his Gene Kelly build, clingy suit and a period-appropriate toup, he throbbed with alpha-male libido, perfectly complimented by a totally game Laverne Cox. Cox, the show's surprise guest star, bared a lot of skin in her corset and pasties and aggressively matched Ross's animal lust with her own. When he ground his face into her crotch, it felt like a breakthrough in gay/trans relations and also like a sketch for a full musical I'd love to see on the Great Black-and-White Way.
For “The Load-In,” a girl near me cooed, “Ooh, it's like an orgy.” Yes, dear, it's a lot like an orgy. Except nobody shoots until the after-party. It offered a sensual human pyramid of dance and desire.
The sexiest number might've been “Sits-Probe,” a dark dance of jockstraps, pasties and the bodies who love them. One of the best-danced numbers and a number that felt like something new. (Hard to cook up new stuff 25 years and 250 numbers in!)
The most jaw-dropping number was “Prod-uction Number,” featuring beefy aerialist Alexander Stabler and a peacock-sure Alfie Parker Jr.
The aerial numbers are expected at this point, but rather than being pretty and distant and lulling, this one was death-defying ... the dude hung on a rope from the heels of his feet at one point. Chills. He was nice during Rotation, too, giving out that straight grin that says it's okay to put some money in there but don't get any ideas.
I loved “He's in the Money,” a tap-dancing extravaganza starring ageless Patrick Boyd. He's not hot for being over 40, he's just fucking hot. He owned the stage!