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Jun 20 2017
BROADWAY BARES: STRIP U Makes The Grade! Comments (0)

DSC03923_newGone to the dogs! (All live images in this post by Matthew Rettenmund)

As always, enjoy my report on Broadway Bares, and feel free to chime in with names for anyone I failed to ID. All my Facebook pics are here. Thanks!

Broadway Bares, the annual, one-night-only, two-shows-only burlesque event that raises cash for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, was back for a 27th installment on June 18, accepting thousands of new students in a revue entitled Strip U. It raised a total of $1,568,114 for the cause.

No SAT, no shade: Strip U was the kind of baby-got-back-to-school experience that promised to keep *Scanyou up many sleepless nights in the future — and not with nightmares about forgetting your locker com or being late to class.

140+ Facebook Pics from Bares Here!

Overall, this show — directed by Nick Kenkel — was the apple of my eye among recent installments of Bares, an impressive return to form that passed with flying colors while demonstrating its mastery of diversity (race, age, body size, gender) and of the core skills that make these shows so much fun in the first place (dancing, humor, exhibitionism).

Tons More Broadway Bares Posts Here!

The only area in which this Bares could be called lacking when graded on a curve against the best ones of all time was star power, a commodity that has been on the wane for years. But who needs big-name stars when the show has so many homegrown stars, (anatomically) gifted hoofers more than capable of owning the stage? (Okay, it would've been fun to see Bette Midler's girls. But we've seen them before.)

Giphy-3Locky Brownlie goes for extra credit!

We arrived at the Hammerstein Ballroom two hours early for the midnight show, putting us right near the front of the amorphous line of young gay guys in aggressively cute shorts pretending they didn't even try with their outfits and enough drooling daddies that the show's traditional placement on Father's Day was, as always, humorously literal.

Keep reading ...

DSC04650_newThe Booster Club

We streamed in on cue, passing yummy school mascots offering change (with which to tip the dancers later) and programs, and nestled in just two deep from the stage. The Hammerstein is not the Roseland (RIP), in that the stage offers far less surface space, meaning fewer opportunities for the choreographers and fewer nooks and crannies, but hey, it's not Sleep No More, and for a fourth year in a row, the Hammerstein got the job done.

DSC04645_newSchool uniform infraction — too much material

And will wonders never cease: A nice man told me my shorts were cute, which almost had me looking for a fiver in my waistband.

DSC03467_newThe school year begins ...

DSC03468_newJay Armstrong Johnson realizing most of the other kids don't wear bowties

Class was in session when a video of Allison Janney came on the giant screen, playing Strip U's perverted president, a woman who reminded us of the (unfortunately, fictional) school's motto: Honorem, Integritas, Nuditas, Erectus.

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DSC03487_newAn encouraging start to the fall semester

The first number, “Orientation,” began with adorable Jay Armstrong Johnson finding out he'd been accepted into the school, which, judging by the student bodies, is surprisingly political — #Resist Clothing and other protest signs dotted the flashing mob as Armstrong was stripped to his turquoise boxer-briefs and then ... beyond.

DSC03494_newBoning up on the new curriculum

Gee, and my biggest concern when I started college was if my roommate would find out I was gay.

The opener boasted original music (Matthew Sklar) and lyrics (Amanda Green), with choreography by Kenkel himself.

Giphy-2Pep star L. Steven Taylor

Giphy-1The audience flipped for this part.

What is the college experience without a good, old-fashioned “Pep Rally”? Led by L. Steven Taylor and Jelani Remy, both of The Lion King, who had seemingly previously attended somersault school, the number had the crowd cheering for more. Rah-rah-rah to choreographer Laya Barak.

DSC03509_newJelani Remy strikes up the band

DSC03545_newSpreading cheer

DSC03555_newEnds well!

At this point, good-Headmistress Lesli Margherita found herself having to deal with a surprise visitor, a Republican operative sent to make sure the school was complying with all the right-wing terms of its funding. Played as a closet-queen Log Cabinite by Tom Lenk, the unwelcome visitor would pop up throughout the show, paying uncomfortably close attention to the ribald goings-on.

DSC03570_newI love Art. He's the one with the big dick, right?

DSC03576_newThat face drew my attention!

DSC03583_newLocky's brush with fame

Next up was one of the show's stand-outs, the beautifully staged “Fine Art.” Set to “Shape of You” by — c'mon, you know who it's by — the number began with shy, ubermuscly nerd Locky Brownlie applying as a life model for an all-slut art class taught by Holly Ann Butler. Once those glasses came off, the rest of his clothes soon followed, revealing one of the best-looking, best-built men to ever strip for Bares. Those thighs! That ass! That hair! Did I mention he's Australian? And has danced for both Taylor Swift and Katy Perry (making him a beefed-out manifestation of their feud)? You wouldn't bring this guy home to Mom because Mom would try to Mrs. Robinson that shit.

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Giphy

DSC03634_newIn and out of shorts. Check out the disbelieving faces between his legs!

In all seriousness, Brownlie was the break-out star of this edition, moving his giant body gracefully around the stage to choreography by Richard J. Hinds, flashing a mega-watt smile. There is no way his name was not the most-searched on gay iPhones after the show ended.

DSC03643_newLockying for attention

The number was all about loving your body, a nice enough message, but if I had Locky's body, I wouldn't just love it, I would marry it. I think I speak for most of the crowd when I say I would be down to audit his ass.

1Here it is when it's not being choreographed.

“Going Greek” had a sadly timely National Lampoon's Animal House theme (Stephen Furst, Flounder in the film, just died this weekend). Starring a bearded Daniel Lynn Evans — always so good, and now elevated to star status — as a frat boy, the creative number (it wasn't just a hazing fantasy) featured the likes of Dave August, Callan Bergmann and Christopher Trepinski as actual Greek figures preening to Paul Stancato's choreography.

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DSC03733_new_newDaniel Lynn Evans: Edgy pledge

It also contained some of the aerialist action for which Bares is rightfully known, ending with Evans triumphantly sporting only an olive wreath, a well-placed hand and his sneakers.

DSC03663_newChristopher Trepinski goes Greek active.

If I'd known this is what fraternities were all about, I would've rushed to join.

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DSC03773_newShe was taught by the best.

Next up was the scorching-hot “Pump 101,” in which a gingham-bedecked girl in glasses (Paula Caselton) earnestly took notes on the bumping and grinding of trans recording artist Mila Jam. The ladies were self-taut; whipcord-perfect in their every step. Jam was a force of nature from the second she hit the stage to “Free Your Mind,” and Caselton owned the runway when her character was done faking it till she was making it and was ready to instead simply make it.

Giphy-4Will this be on the test?

It was a gorgeous and mesmerizing and empowering number, choreographed by BB (Broadway Bares, you pig!) vet Kellen Stancil.

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DSC03828_newDancers from the pants

After already offering a female-centric winner, the show segued into yet another, and it turned out to be a showstopper! “Feminist Studies” featured a dizzying litany of girl-power archetypes, from suffragettes to WWII shipyard workers. Finally, a projection of female role models Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Sonia Sotomayor provided a backdrop for three ferocious dancers in modified pantsuits to own the stage. With genderqueer regalness from J. Harrison Ghee, this one, choreographed by Mr. John Alix, could easily have been the show's typically bombastic closing number — and things were just getting started.

DSC03849_newGive me your poor, your tired, your cuddled asses ...

Internet star Randy Rainbow, he of the hilarious politics-meets-and-hates-Broadway parodies, was polished as a professor in setting up the next number, the sexiest of the evening, but one wishes he had removed his clothing. He's funny, but he's also hot! Herstory lesson: Even Cyndi Lauper got sorta naked one year.

DSC03871_newThe Rainbow erection

“Psych,” choreographed by Sidney Erik Wright, was headed up by the man I would call the show's anchor, Josh Drake.

Giphy-5Tail-wagging good fun

Drake has been a outstanding in the past, and is now so good at this he could do it in his sleep, and with a smile. Instead, he opted to do it wide awake, working his harness as top dog in a troupe of boys serving human-pup-fetish realness.

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DSC03922_newLeader of the pack!

A play on Pavlov's dog, the sketch climaxed — as did a few audience members — in a gasp-inducing journey down the unfortunately named catwalk, with all the doggies pulling their masters obediently. Mush! (And, in some cases, Tush!)

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DSC03951_newGive a dog a bone!

The least fun part of college for me was science, yet “Chem Lab,” choreographed by Michael Lee Scott, blinded me with the stuff, as dorky Michael Apuzzo and Heather Lee Blair put their heads together and created the perfect man in the form of humpy (it's a gay word from the '70s — look it up, class!) Sean Burroughs. Thick as a brick, Burroughs looked like a more fuckable, less green Incredible Hulk, challenging Locky Brownlie for the title of OMGWHOISTHAT? Guy of the night.

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DSC04021_newSean Burroughs: It's alive ... alive!

It was a case of Frankenstein's monster meat.

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DSC04080_newDrop and give him — well, just drop and give him whatever he asks.

Many sports have been explored by past Bares, but “Scrimmage” fielded a shirts vs. skins match of hot lacrosse buns. Choreographed by Charlie Sutton, the effortlessly sexy number was led by Coach Kyle Brown (Anastasia) who, in the right light, wouldn't have to be dissected in order to be used to study human musculature. He also demonstrated that if you can see a guy's bulge from behind, it's going to be big from the front as well.

DSC04038_newJoshin' around

I fell for adorable Josh Cotham in this number, telling my friend, “Him.” I don't know if I forgot it wasn't a charity slave auction, but I was right. “Him.” So cute, and a true star during “Rotation” after the show.

Giphy-6Aerial views

“The Observatory,” Armando Farfan Jr.'s aerial pièce de résistance, featured Josh Daniel Green (who is engaged to Daniel Robinson) and Kar Will as star-crossed (and mostly naked) lovers in a balletic number that had complex things happening onstage as well as in the air. Choreographed by Kenkel, it was one of the most stunning Bares aerial numbers so far ... how does he keep topping himself? And can he bottom himself as well?

DSC04183_newJosh Daniel Green demonstrates falling into love ass-backwards ...

Another interstitial with persnickety Lenk found him joined by On Your Feet's gorgeous Ana Villafañe, who was dressed like an apt pupil more likely to be On Her Back. Or on yours. As you like.

DSC04198_newThis guy never never studied a broad in his life!

DSC04218_newThe rhythm was always gonna get him.

Giphy-7Possibly my favorite reveal of the show!

Her appearance signaled the start of “Study Abroad,” which somehow avoided the implication that broads were being studied, instead exploding into a topical excursion to Cuba (Trump should attend F U over his recent undoing of some Obama-era progress on the island). This was a sizzling Latin number, choreographed by Sekou McMiller and executed by lead dancers Rosie Lani Fiedelman and Jeremey Adam Rey, who had all the right moves and los culos de muerte. My Spanish isn't too fly.

DSC04290_newI don't recall my cap and gown revealing my jockstrap ... ?

DSC04330_newScholarly pursuits

DSC04336_newStrip U's commitment to continuing education is real!

Finally, it was time for “Commencement,” choreographed by Kenkel again, during which a topless Janney (still only on video) addressed the students after what was implied to have been four years of study. All that time and Lenk's conserva-spy was still on the job! Well, it turned out he had once been accepted to Strip U, but had been too afraid to express his true self and join the in-cumming class, a walking example of the theory that gay- and sex-hating Republicans are often gay-sex-loving Democrats deep (well, 8 or so inches) down.

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DSC04443_newL. Steven Taylor raised $18,198 to become 2017's highest-earning charity dancer! (Plus, check out my views.)

Just like so many of our college experiences, the show ended with a bang.

Next up, and the entire troupe took the stage for announcements by special guest Judith Light and the creator of Broadway Bares, acclaimed choreographer and director Jerry Mitchell.

Giphy-8Only the coin slots were empty.

After that, it was time for “Rotation,” when the crowd swarmed the stage to stuff money into any available jockstrap, G-string, bra or modest pair of skivvies. I was close to Locky, so was lucky enough to be able to give him the $50 bill he well and truly deserved. I almost carved our initials into his tree-trunk thighs.

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DSC04475_newI should be so Locky — Locky, Locky, Locky!

He was a sweetheart, too, and posed for a pic. It's almost like he is aware the camera has a crush on him.

Giphy-9Ki$$, ki$$!

I found most of my other faves, too, shelling out $400 in total. Not bragging, but hey, if you're gonna take their pictures, you can't be dropping dollar bills, I always say.

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DSC04533_newOh, my Josh!

“Rotation” sucks at the Hammerstein compared to the old Roseland — the stage is not right for it, so people are jammed together and looky-loos are blocking others from making actual donations. Still, it's a hell of a lot of fun, and an obscene amount of cash is raised. The dancers told me when they go backstage, they empty their clothing of currency, dumping it directly into trashbags.

DSC04517_newThe legendary Mark MacKillop!

DSC04613_newLuscious John Paul LaPorte

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DSC04507_newSean of the head

DSC04610_newIf he's paper-trained, I would love to give Javi Perez a forever home.

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DSC04611_newDaniel Kermidas turns the other cheeks.

DSC04595_newDaniel Lynn Evans makes stage-dooring a snap.

DSC04547_newThe spotlight always finds Ben Ryan.

DSC04623_newJosh Drake could have been running credit cards, he had so much interest.

Giphy-11Leaving some wiggle room

Giphy-12I took Social Dance in college for a gym credit. It wasn't like this.

It was a great evening and a great show, and if there is one thing Strip U proved, it's that Broadway Bares has yet to run its ... course.

DSC04653_newMy pal Francis Toumbakaris, post-show — silver fox alert!

DSC04643_newNick Adams, still King of the Biceps

DSC04652_newHamilton's amazing Javier Muñoz, who was surprised I wanted his picture (!?!)

IMG_2039_newSee you naked next year!

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