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A Good Time With The Boys
by Philip Wong on Jun 14, 2007
In Richard “Scrumbly” Koldewyn’s musical revue “Wilde Boys", the famous decadence of Victorian England surfaces less in its setting and more in the clandestine winks and nudges of its songs, which altogether makes for an entertaining, albeit slightly contained, hour long musical.
The time is roughly the end of the 19th century, right around when Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and Oscar Wilde were practicing the “love that dares not speaks its name". In the London underbelly of pleasure dens, local nobles and gentlemen would frequently visit their favorite boy dancers. Ostensibly, these boys did more of their dancing offstage and behind closed curtains. For this performance at the New Conservatory Theatre, however, the delights and joys are found mostly on the stage.
As a World Premiere Pride Month Musical, “Wilde Boys” displays no hang ups about its subject matter. In fact, most of the songs performed onstage seem to feed off the need for double entendres and even go so far as to revel in them. With names like “A Little Of What You Fancy”, “Backside Rules The Navy”, “A Little Bit Of Cucumber” and “Young Boys Are Cheap Today,” you hardly raise an eyebrow at the double meaning most of those songs convey.
“Wilde Boys” is essentially a Victorian Music Hall revue, and as such, much of the material performed is traditional. But Koldewyn, who also stars as the owner of the back-alley establishment Alfred Taylor with direction by Michael Mohammed, has written some original songs, many of which are performed by the cast. As musical and as hummable as they all are, only the slightest hints of unrest at the class disparity that was so prevalent in Victorian England can be heard in the song “While London Sleeps”. But of course, when going to a show that cautions male nudity, you’re not really expecting a history lesson.
Indeed, much of the show’s charm lies in the quirkiness and willingness of its principle actors in performing the period pieces. The young cast sing and dance their way through much of the hour and a half in various forms on undress, but because that’s necessitated by their roles, it works well as both a setting ploy and visual distraction.
Inevitably, it serves to place the audience members into the role of the various gentlemen who drop by in Oscar Wilde’s favorite hangout for bedside chats and fireside smooches with the boys. All of it works in the favor of what is actually lacking in the form of stage setting. Nevertheless, there is a sense of intimacy that is not only displayed onstage but willingly extended to the audience.
Oscar Wilde himself never shows up in the show, and we are left to hear about his happenings from Bosie, whose disgruntled attitude towards his father and those others of his station only hint at what is in store for the two. But for the purposes of “Wilde Boys,” the time of the dandy is firmly established. If we believe, as Wilde himself testified, that “all art is quite useless,” then we can only take the songs and music of this show for what they offer -- namely a good time with the boys. Anything more would be scandalous.
Wilde Boys runs from Thurs - Sat throughout the month of June at The New Conservatory Theatre Center.
For more information and tickets, please visit www.nctcsf.org
by Philip Wong on Jun 14, 2007