Last night was the Broadway Bares installment "Winter Burlesque," a pastiche of past numbers and new naughtiness that blew hot and hotter on a cold New York night. And to think, it was all to benefit a good cause—Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
I arrived less than an hour early and was still one of the first in the house, the house being XL on W. 42nd across the street from my apartment. I planted myself directly in front of the catwalk's end, just behind the section of the club that had been roped off for higher-paying guests who wanted to watch the show from a seated position like civilized perverts. (I got to snap another photo of XL's hottest server, at left, waiting on some.)
NOTE: Low-res videos of some of the show's hottest numbers are here. Hi-res and ultra-dirty photos from the show that I am not allowed to reveal on my blog are or will soon be available here. (Follow my tumblr, please.)
I was next to the house videographer and some guys who shyly confessed to being Bares-backers for many years—they own all of the official DVDs and know many of the dancers' names. If only they knew my own past with the show, they'd have realized they were in good company.
The show started with a bang—stunning Judah Gavra emerged, let his coat slip away to reveal his naked ass and then gestured to the title card revealing that the show's first number was to be "Burlesque is Back".
Angie Schworer sang the number, a saucy celebration of the art of getting naked on a stage, with the right amount of humor and bawdy sexiness. She reminded me of Wendi McLendon-Covey meets Jane Krakowski. And speaking of crack, she and her bevy of beauties didn't skimp on the skimpy outfits.
"Fringe Benefits," a classic Bares number with an Elvis theme, may have been performed before, but lead dancer Steven Wenslawski made it his own and made the audience his bitches while he was at it. When he shook his butt at us, it was with all the confidence of someone who knows that while beauty is only skin deep, it's still awfully nice to have it.
Loved the wild backup dancing by Bares vets like Sidney Erik Wright, who was the evening's ASS-istant director.
"By the Sea" was an adorable number featuring some vaguely vintage beachgoers doffing their trunks to the tune of Madonna's "Rain". When it rained, it poured—this number had the most extended butt-baring, which was tempered by its tongue-in-cheek (pun intended) quality.
It ended with a sweet, male-on-male (wet) kiss. My buddy Andrew Glaszek was very prominent here, showing off his best assets with aplomb.
"Spellbound" was a real show-stopper—choreographed and starring Stephan Choiniere (with Daria Chamanskaia as his partner), the number was a mind-bending, body-bending feat of physical endurance. The way those two wrapped themselves around each other and used each other as gym equipment made the law of gravity seem like it was made to be broken and helped us forget that neither of them showed as much skin as was readily available elsewhere.
"Raise the Roost" was immediately familiar as having been performed at an earlier Broadway Bares by Matthew Morrison. This time, one of my absolute favorite dancers—Adam Fleming—did the honors, artfully goofing as Humpty Dumpty while dancing to a mash-up of "The Humpty Dance" and "My Humps". The choreography looked challenging, but nothing is more challenging than trying not to be upstaged when ladies dressed like chickens spread their legs and project giant eggs, complete with sound effects. Fleming, with his '20s silver-screen lothario looks, showed he could let his hair—and his pants—down with the best of them.
"Talk to the Hand" was a Brandon Rubendall "Solo Strips" joint from just last year, this time starring George Smallwood. He danced and romanced with an audience member in a way that would make Enrique Iglesias blush, discarding him when he was done, much like he did with his clothing.
"Exotic" was a fresh number choreographed by Ray Mercer and starring Jamal Story and Christopher Jackson in a moody, two-man interpretation of the ups and downs of a relationship. It was hell for me to try to shoot thanks to the (beautiful) saturated magenta and blue lighting, which made photographing their dark skin an extra challenge for my non-flash camera. But—my eyeballs enjoyed it.
"Banker" was once done to great effect by Joshua Buscher, but was here recreated lovingly by an effortlessly charming Matthew Steffens. Dapper in his gold suit, he was even more striking once he lost it. Foot fans would have appreciated his black dress socks, but I rather preferred what looked like a couple of rolls of quarters in the banker's vault.
The show's burlesque finale was "A Big Man," starring hunky Justin Smith as a milkman who's stripped by some farmer's daughters (several male dancers in cleverly simple drag) and who makes his daily delivery all over Glaszek's face. No use crying over spilled milk, but nobody would blame you if you leaked a little. This number felt the dirtiest thanks to that ending and thanks to the obscenely sheer shorts worn by the male backup dancers.
The show's final offering was potential Scruff spokesman Matt Zarley giving a spirited rendition of his dance song "Trust Me", backed by the full company.
When it was all over, it had only just begun—Jen Cody emerged and coached us on how to donate even more money to the cause by stuffing money into the dancers' "orifices" (I didn't put this to the test, but I assume they would really only take it in their waistbands) as they danced around the room and onstage. That's right, in XL instead of the Roseland, these dancers managed to offer a full slate of dance routines and the world-infamous "Rotation." It was particularly funny seeing Cody demonstrate (on Smith for the first show and on Zarley for the second) what "cum gutters" are on a man, and that a guy's "plate" is his flat stomach, so called because you can eat off of it.
I, of course, ran around making a fool of myself, getting pictures and handing out $200. I'm a taker, but I'm a giver, too.
My friend Jason arrived and I actually stuck around for the second show as well. It wasn't much different—even Judith Light, who'd been at a ringside seat all night, stayed through—except I noted that it was suddenly impossible to hear Schworer this time around (weird sound issue) and the slightly smaller audience gave the show a markedly bigger response.
It was a great night of entertainment for $25; it really whetted our sexual appetites in advance of the full show in June.
I'll have another gallery up tomorrow of still more Bares photos, and don't forget to check my (Work Unfriendly) tumblr for the racier versions—I'm posting them as we speak and there are quite a few.