Conceived and directed by: David Zak
At: Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont
Phone: ( 773 ) 883-1090; $32-$37
Runs through: May 28
Bailiwick Repertory had its biggest success from a little musical revue called Naked Boys Singing. The concept was simple—get a few good-looking men; strip 'em down; and let them sing and dance. It was a tried-and-true concept that had already worked in cities like New York and when it came to Chicago, audiences both gay and straight embraced it ( especially the bachelorette party crowd ) …and the show ran for years, extension after extension.
Who could blame David Zak and the folks at Bailiwick for wanting to keep milking the cash cow that naked boys on stage provide? After all, Naked Boys Singing probably ( and I don't know this for a fact; it just makes sense ) allowed the theater to do some of its more serious, innovative stuff. The problem here is that Barenaked Lads in the Great Outdoors is a pale rip-off of Naked Boys Singing, a blatantly marketing-inspired production. That might all be beside the point if the show were good, but sadly, it comes up lacking in several areas.
In spite of whatever criticism might come its way, Barenaked Lads will probably succeed because it delivers what it promises: full nudity, with penises small, medium, and yowza on display. And if swingin' man meat is all you require for an evening's entertainment, your ticket will be a good investment.
But if you want something with a little more substance ( and no, I'm not saying that anyone expects this to be Tennessee Williams ) , you might want to look elsewhere and keep your eyes peeled in your personal life for a glimpse of a penis or two. Barenaked Lads isn't strictly a musical revue, although it contains its fair share of musical numbers, ( the most memorable of these being the catchy theme song and 'In My Body,' a lovely ballad lifted from another musical by Dan Martin and Michael Biello ) , it has unwisely decided to add—you'll pardon the expression—straight comedy into the mix. And comedy is where this show falls down on its tight little ass. Most of what attempts to make us laugh fails because it's either old, uninspired or just plain stupid ( and not in a fun way—witness Greg Poljacik capering around on stage as an orangutan and Raquel Marmor as his Australian-accented trainer, with an accent that sounds lifted from one of the servers at Outback Steakhouse ) . A take-off on Brokeback Mountain meets Queer Eye is unoriginal and already seems dated. ( I'd seen the queer eye crew depicted as gay minstrels in a Gayco show about three years ago. ) A Nude Gourmet skit tries to be zany and slapstick, but instead just comes off as forced ( 'look at me! I caught myself on fire! Laugh!' ) .
This go-round has added a woman, Raquel Marmor, to the cast—I suppose, as a nod to the female and hetero audience. Problem is, Marmor's singing capabilities are mediocre at best, as she proved when pushed on her one big solo about Canadian Mounties.
As I said, the show will have an audience, but not one that demands unity in structure or any depth or wit.