Last year, when “Bill Nelson’s All Male Revue” first played at Barrington Stage Company, lots of people were not sure what to expect. (It has since been dubbed with the more generic name as Bill Nelson’s Incredible Musical Review” for the October engagement.)
Many of us took a chance and went to see this provocatively named musical outing. It wasn’t the Chippendales, that’s for sure, nor a Berkshire version of Naked Boys Singing. In fact the clothes stayed on for the entire duration of the show. Not even a naked chest to swoon over. Yet the two barely publicized performances sold out to the walls, and – thanks to its most creative and original format – turned out to be one of the highlights of the 2009 theatre season. Shown in picture above: (l to r) Orville Mendoza, Claybourne Elder and Bill Nelson.
They returned again just before Labor Day with new songs, a new cast member and delighted audiences all over again. It was a virtually all-new show. There will be one more chance to see them this year, from October 8-10 at 8pm and Bill Nelson promises still more fun and surprises in a good-times, good-vibe outing where the creativity never stops. For the Fall version, part of the City of Pittsfield’s “Out in the Berkshires” weekend, something special is sure to happen.
What you get is exactly what the title suggests: a bunch of entertaining guys singing some truly original lyrics by the gifted Bill Nelson, set to music by a variety of his composer friends. They include his closest collaborator, Will Aronson, plus Rob Broadhurst, Hailey Chang, Creighton Irons, Anna K. Jacobs, David Mallamud, Katya Stanislavskaya, and Niko Tsakalakos.
There’s a new face among the performers this year, Stanley Bahorek, whom Nelson describes as “brilliantly funny, with a molten caramel-voice.” He replaces Howie Michael Smith who has a previous engagement. But Nelson attracts lots of full voiced singers, and Bahorek happily joins the delightful Orville Mendoza, plus the exceptional actor-singers Claybourne Elder and Frank Galgano, and music director, Matt Castle.
The songs they sing are unusual, usually about topics that are way off the mainstream charts. Some of the most popular will be back again this year along with a whole bunch of new ones.
Four songs have music by Will Aronson who wrote the music to Nelson’s most-performed song, “Han Solo.” You know, like the guy in Star Wars.
Here is how Nelson describes the new songs Aronson and he created:
“Actor Wanted” is based on an astonishing want ad I saw on Craigslist. One of our singers, Claybourne Elder, picks up a violin and plays along with Matt Castle on piano and Frank Galgano’s vocals.
“There Are Rules,” sung by Claybourne Elder is the quirky song of a man flying American Airlines to get away from the man who ditched him for a Peruvian pool boy.
Stanley Bahorek sings “I Love the Hum,” the song of a boy whose awkward obsession with the family refrigerator leads to a love for singing. Will Aronson’s vocal arrangement with these guys’ voices is exhilarating. It’s magical. William Finn says every choir in the world is going to sing this song. If I were a choir, I would.
Claybourne Elder heart-breakingly sings to his autistic nephew in “I Wish You Could Tell Me Who You Are.”
Nelson also notes that “There are more ensemble songs this year. More harmonies. And some revised arrangements of last year’s songs, written just for these guys.
“William Finn is directing as he did last year. It’s a love fest. And that love will pour out into the audience. We can’t wait to share.”
Neither can his growing legions of admirers.
The next erformances will take place at BSC’s Stage 2 space, 36 Linden Street , Pittsfield on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 8-10 at 8:00 pm, Tickets are only $15 (general admission) and can be reserved by calling the BSC Box Office at 413-236-8888 or online at www.barringtonstageco.org.
Here’s a sneak peek of what is in store, some behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and Nelson working on the new material and having a good time…
About Bill Nelson:
Playwright/lyricist/bookwriter Bill Nelson received an MFA from the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program where he wrote, with composer Daniel Lincoln, Savannah: a Musical Fable.
Bill’s plays have been performed across the country and his songs have been heard at cabarets around the world, including William Finn’s Songs by Ridiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists—presented at both Barrington Stages and Joe’s Pub—and New York Theatre Barn’s The Oh, So Sexy Songs of Bill Nelson.
A Dramatist Guild fellow and published lyricist, he’s currently working with composer Anna K. Jacobs on a new musical, Harmony, Kansas , about a gay men’s chorus in rural Kansas . www.BillNelsonBillNelson.com.