You’ve heard of never judge a book by its cover? Well while watching Boys in the Buff I learned to never judge a show by its title. To say I was apprehensive entering the Stockwell Playhouse was an understatement, I mean we were greeted by a bare chested man in a top hat! However, Boys in the Buff turned out to be a righteous evening with more than one toe tapping number to boot!
More of a cabaret style show than traditional plot led evening, Boys in the Buff circles around the central theme of loving the body you have and exploring the ways in which we refer to it. Led by Master of Ceremonies Natalie Harman, a cast of 5 shimmy and sashay across the stage in various states of undress and always in good humour.
Harman herself is a diva in waiting; all flirty nuances and wink wink comic timing, and boy does she have some pipes on her. One of my main grumbles was that throughout the first act the sound wasn’t quite properly balanced meaning Harman didn’t have room to shine, but this was remedied in act ll where she proved that sooner or later she’d be perfect as Sally Bowles.
William Frazer, Adam O’Shea, Juilian Quijano and Shaun Riddick all worked brilliantly together, bouncing off each other’s energy and keep the choreography right.
But the real surprise of the evening was Chris Burgess music and lyrics. With nods to everything from cabaret to Shakespeare, his lyrics were sharp, funny and on point, while the music was more memorable than some recent West End shows. Particular highlights included an ode to the hellish experience of working out (The Gym), a woman’s shopping trip (Does My Bum Look Big In This?) and a strip tease set to Hamlet’s soliloquy, which was one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year.
Technical issues aside, there were a couple of elements that could be tweaked to really make this production a smash. The first would be to take it out of the traditional theatre setting and push it into one of London’s cabaret venues where the audience would feel more relaxed and open to the shows humour. The second would be to be a bit more diverse in the show’ s casting. Body positivity is quite a hard message to swallow when you’re being served it by 4 beautifully toned white men. A bit more diversity wouldn’t go a miss.
Boys in the Buff may sound like a Dreamboys knock off but it’s fresh and funny score combined with some sizzling performances mean that you may find yourself pleasantly surprised!
Reviewed by Roz Carter