Four talented performers now rehearsing for Reefer Madness at TUTS Underground found time as well to prepare a tribute to '80s music, under the title In Our Undies. Despite the name, and some performers getting down to their skivvies, the evening was about as sensual as a church social. This seems appropriate as, after all, weren't the '80s when we took a break, and rested up from the tumultuous '70s?
There is a four-piece band onstage, and four microphones downstage, and that is it, but the enthusiasm of the performers and band and, yes, the audience as well, created a warm and welcoming ambience.
The performers are Tyce Green, who was brilliant in Spring Awakening and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Holland Vavra, who has led countless musicals to success at Stages Rep, Christina Stroup, recently a powerhouse standout as the Witch in Into the Woods, and Cole Ryden, a relative newcomer, but the best dancer of the group, loose as a goose, with his own low-key charm.
Deborah Duncan guest-starred, and brought the house down with "Koocachoo" and "Let Me Be the One," and a partial rendition of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls.
The overall impression is of hot girls and interesting guys, and the evening has the semblance of a dress rehearsal where a lenient director is permitting his talent to have some fun. While it lacks the polish of a professional cabaret performance, the rapport between audience and onstage is tactile and full-blown - this is obviously what the audience came for.
Ryden and Holland sang "Nothing to Hide" and "Like a Virgin," and there was a medley with all four performers. They even sang Happy Birthday to the guitarist Allan, and the keyboard guy (sorry, there were no programs) cooperated by taking off his shirt, as did Green, and the keyboard guy's final exit, now in his underwear, garnered wild applause. Informality was a keynote of the evening.
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We heard wonderful renditions of "Don't You Want Me" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and "I Never Really Cared until I Met You" and "Take Me Home Tonight". The realization that the '80s were all about unrequited loved burned itself into my consciousness.
The cast wore hot pants and/or cut-offs, so there was a lot of leg showing. The women were highly attractive, even voluptuous. So, yes, there was sensuality after all, but it was of the 'You can look, but you can't touch" variety. The music and lyrics here were a driving force, a tsunami of sound, and I did wish for an occasional romantic ballad to provide a respite, but that was the '50s, wasn't it?
The verdict: A delightful evening with richly talented performers and a great band paid homage to the music of the '80s, with well-thought out selections, and a highly appreciative audience responded with love and enthusiasm.
This was a one-night-only performance, on September 14, produced by Straight from New York Concert Series at The Music Box Theatre, 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722, StraightFromNewYork.com.