Bodacious Bods and Baldino at SOB

Sunday, September 21, 2014

the_nanceFULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY, rear windows of luscious ladies, ZOUNDS! In Charleston?

Properly in North Charleston, the South of Broadway Theatre Company opened their 2014-15 season Friday with Douglas Carter Beane’s award-winning, “The Nance.” Referring to gay men who camped up their performances in Manhattan’s Burlesque theater scene, this “nance” could not have been better portrayed.

Joseph Baldino, a veteran NYC actor and director, nails with stunning versatility his leading role as Chauncey Miles—and while at least as funny, he’s handsomer than the role’s originator on Broadway, Nathan Lane. Onstage virtually every minute of this rowdy romp that incorporates as much pathos as it does humor, Baldino—and Beane—explore the dangerous position of “queers” in the politically charged atmosphere of the late 1930s.

Doug McGill, as Chauncey’s partner Ned, matches the star’s multifaceted performance, first as a Midwestern hayseed Chauncey picks up at an Automat where “the boys meet the boys,” becoming turn by beautifully-timed turn, a cherished-then-spurned lover, political activist, and fellow performer/respected friend of the show’s company in this play-within-a-play.

The company consists of one emcee and three bodacious lovelies. In daringly authentic outfits designed by costumer Shanon Hays Stroer, Lynda Harvey-Carter, Elizabeth Mears, and Sara E. Coy (credited with choreography as well) strut their stuff with raucous enthusiasm and nary a scintilla of self-consciousness, sing famously ribald lyrics, and dance everything from the can-can to tap. Overall, director Kenneth C. Graham gave Les Girls convincing off-stage personalities that rival their onstage personas, and staged the musical numbers, drawing from each of these gifted actresses every blatantly suggestive look, word, and gesture that defines Burlesque.

And there’s gotta be a front man. Dick Latham’s Efram oozes with charm, carrying off supporting roles in ridiculous get-ups, playing straight man to Baldino’s plethora of double-entendres that make innocent words into “pansy”-centric one-liners, grinningly managing the theater—and making desperate attempts to keep Mayor LaGuardia’s coterie of cops, critics. and judges, and the self-righteous public, from closing the theater on the basis of “degenerate indecency.”

But wait! While able to obtain the book and lyrics for this show that opened for an extended run on Broadway last year, the musical score was unavailable. SOB Founder, Producer, and Artistic Director Mary Gould managed to obtain the services of Abdiel Iriarte as musical director and composer. For SOB’s regional premiere of “The Nance,” Iriarte, a popular arranger and producer of a wide range of musical projects, composed an original score that stayed unerringly true to the immediately-identifiable style and spirit of vaudeville.

The audience, packed to the walls, belly-laughed at the onstage antics (perhaps squirming a bit, seated up-close and personal to the strip-teasers), groaned at the situations depicting the hypocritical intolerance of those “Happy Days,” winced at the depth of tenderness between Chauncey and Ned, and spontaneously applauded at the black-outs ending every scene’s punch line.

Minus the bump-and-grind that accompanies the show’s running gag, “I’ll meetcha ’round the corner in a…half-an-hour” at SOB’s versatile space tucked amid the burgeoning enterprises just down from Park Circle.

Shows run weekends (7:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Sundays) through October 4. Click here for more info.

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It is with life as it is with art: the deeper one penetrates, the broader the view.                   
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