The Fancy Boys Follies
nytheatre.com review by Micah Bucey
October 1, 2008
The time-honored tradition of old-fashioned good-natured sleaze is kicking up its heels in Fancy Boys Follies, an official selection of this year's New York Musical Theatre Festival. That this short, uneven revue is the brainchild of some of the folks responsible for the long-running naughty hit Naked Boys Singing! should come as no surprise, for this new show doesn't stray far from that same creative pool: simple, saucy songs about gay life, sex, and relationships that walk the line from pleasantly raunchy to cloyingly (un)shocking.
Where Fancy Boys Follies goes a tad astray is in its desire to offend an audience who has already sat through years of watching numerous naked boys sing about sex toys and leather wear and one-night stands. As far as I could tell, not one subject explored during this show's 90 minutes could possibly come as a surprise to any gay man (or straight man, for that matter) well-versed in any current mainstream sexual trends. And without shock value, the only thing that this revue might have going for it is its songs and its cast. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, the songs are a bit soggy and mediocre. Thankfully, the fancy boys who make up the show's five-member ensemble have enough charm to sell the material, as cheap as it sometimes is, with each of them getting at least one or two moments to shine.
Of all of the members of the cast, the charming, big-lunged Tom Stuart seems most able to balance the ridiculousness and potential of his material. He rises above the derivative nature of his two big numbers, "Merry Ex-Mas" and "For The Sake Of My Art," to make them both showcases for his comic timing and singing skills. Likewise, Howard Kaye and Jon Powell are both given chances to shine, particularly as a yearning couple in "Meet Cute—A Mini-Musical," a generic-sounding play on Disney musicals that still wears out its welcome despite the best efforts of all actors involved. Jim J. Bullock, obviously the largest name on the show's marquee, is allowed to run wild, using his best comic efforts to mixed results. When he is on, he is on, but the shtick grows tired in some pieces, and the good bits might hit harder were Bullock reigned in a bit by Randy Brenner's direction. Finally, the requisite beefcake is provided by Dave August, a pretty, preening youngster who reprises his one song a few too many times, but gains the audience's admiration with a final, much-delayed striptease.
What one is left with at the end of Fancy Boys Follies is hard to discern. My own foggy memories of Naked Boys Singing! seem to suggest that the piece, while sexy, was also a celebration of appreciating one's own body, despite its imperfections. Fancy Boys Follies doesn't seem to be preoccupied with much else other than singing and dancing and squeezing together rhymes about "buns" and "peenies." This can sometimes be charming, but if David Pevsner and the other creators of Fancy Boys Follies want it to have as long a life as its predecessor, a smarter selection of themes and subjects might be in order.