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3 GUYS NAKED FROM THE WAIST DOWN – Finborough Theatre, London.

Three-Guys-1-700x4553 Guys Naked from the Waist Down is an unashamedly alternative musical, produced on a budget that would probably make a miser blush, and with what is lacking in lavishness counterbalanced by the extraordinary amounts of energy it demands from its 3-man cast. This was American Jerry Colker’s debut as a playwright and lyricist and won Dramadesk awards when it was originally produced in the US. This is its first UK production in 25 years.

Despite being consciously ‘alternative,’ it isn’t quite as threatening to an audience as that might sound or indeed as its title implies. Set in the California of the 1980’s, the plot follows three hapless comedians as they accidentally come together to collaborate – initially successfully – and then get drawn into the morass of stupidity that characterises the world of fame.

So, it’s a rags to riches to almost rags again story, not overly subtle, and featuring three characters whom we might visualise as Mr Smooth, Mr Angry and Mr Odd. Their peculiar chemistry, some luck and some talent combine to make them at one moment the hottest thing in showbusiness. It’s a slippery slope from there.

The music is played by a well-disciplined five-piece band precariously positioned on the edge of the set (which is mostly that of Flowering Cherry, the Finborough’s other current production). It varies in tone from semi-Frank Zappa (in one of his lyrical moods), to slightly sub-Lloyd Webber and there are other oddities (the rap punctuated by a basketball was one of the really good ones) with lots of reprised themes.

Simon Haines (as Ted Klausterman, the smooth one), Benedict Hastings (as Phil Kunin, the angry one) and Guy Woolf (as Kenny Brewster, the odd one) take on the tasks of singing, dancing, acting and a little puppetry, all with tremendous gusto and commitment. Their voices aren’t perhaps the strongest you’ll ever hear, and the music lacks any really stand-out virtuosity, but what you do get is energy and, in the small performance space of the Finborough, that counts for a lot.

The three characters come together to form an updated and TV-friendly version of the Marx or Ritz Brothers, manufactured for prime time television. Their success is perhaps the fruit of luck but their style – in its slightly anarchic, heroless approach – will be familiar to anyone who was brought up with the Monkees’ television show. In fact, their breakthrough number, ‘The History of Stand-Up Comedy’, is both convincing in its own right as well as being a slightly knowing and distinctive fruit of the 1980’s.

The show lasts approximately two hours and there’s a 20 minute interval. It is enjoyable and often fun, and if you are looking for an energetic entertainment that you can get close to, then you’ll like this.

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Reviewed 23/11/2015

By Michael Spring
@dudley_antipope

November 2015 – February 2016
Finborough Theatre, London, SW10 9ED.

 

 

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