adam williamsI had the very entertaining opportunity to sit down with Adam Williams just before the opening of ‘Naked Boys Singing’ at the Seymour Centre, Sydney this week to chat to him about his role as Choreographer for this much-loved cult opera. Adam’s choreographic credits to date include So You Think You Can Dance, MTV Awards, Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, Australian Idol,  Australian Film and Television Awards and working with Celebrities such as Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Kylie Minogue, Kelly Clarkson, Delta Goodrem and Sophie Monk to name a few. His musical theatre credits include Dirty Dancing, Saturday Night Fever, Titanic, The Full Monty, Leader of the Pack, Footloose and Chicago.
So Adam, how is Naked Boys Shaping up?
“We’re having so much fun – so many jokes to be said about the eight boys and I locked up in a room creating but as the second longest running opera in history it has a definite cult classic following so I’m really excited about where we are taking it now.”
How has the fact that the cast is naked affected your choreographic choices and how you approach it?
“Someone tweeted me the other day at adam_williams_ to say that they saw it in the 90’s in New York and it was quite funny to see boys just dancing around naked.  So what we’ve done is we’ve used the boys as props so in pieces like “The Entertainer” which is the story of a struggling artist and how they soldier on for their audience regardless, you won’t actually see a dance break per se. You will see things evolve. Jonathon wanted to really reference costumes a lot so you’ll see real reference in that razzle dazzle – comings and goings of people, shapes being made, the end of the routine bodies become a staircase – the lead walks up the staircase – I am really excited for people to see what we’ve done with their bodies.”
Have there been any funny moments in rehearsal you can share with our DanceLife readers?
“Yes, we do a number called “I Beat my Meat” which is about a chef and the trials and tribulations of working in a commercial kitchen, and at times a chef will take it out their stress on the ‘meat’. The props we use are rolling pins but I didn’t have rolling pins in the workshop. The cast were using water bottles instead and one cast member kept saying “… mines smaller than everyone else’s …” and lots of funny innuendo when there’s so much innuendo in the show already!”
What obstacles have you encountered?
“It was always meant to be an intimate piece so the boys don’t have a lot of help from technology to get the storytelling across to the audience. To marry the singing and the dancing together I have asked for some ‘out there’ choices. The boys lift each other – lots of lifts, lots of levels – so to marry those two, it’s going to be a challenge when we get into the theatre, because obviously the boys won’t have lapel microphones. There’s just nowhere to put them! Not like every other big production – so that’s one big obstacle!
“But even I, whenever there’s a mention of the boys going naked, I BLUSH – like I’m very aware it’s going to happen but I blush too! But interestingly, when I watched a recording of the Broadway cast, the show starts and there’s gratuitous nudity, it’s all out there to bare, but funnily enough by the second number you become de-sensitized to it. It’s no big deal, – no longer shocking – and so then we can get on with the storytelling. The singing voices are stunning!”
How have the boys approached their roles – have the felt intimidated or self conscious in any way?
“No, when I saw the cast I noticed how young they were I was fascinated by that, that they could be so liberal as to be able to put themselves out there. Usually around the world the casts have been much older, for a number of reasons, but these boys are young and I’m fascinated too.  There are some really exciting celebrities coming on board to do some cameo appearances as well.”
Is the main focus of the whole show the nudity?
“No, not at all. It obviously seems like it will be from its title but there is so much more going on than that on stage.”
So what is the basic storyline?
“The nudity is yes, that extra point of interest, but the show doesn’t actually have a storyline – it has a number of stories, each continued within it’s own song – each of them tie back to being ‘naked’ in one figurative or metaphoric sense or another.  The nakedness is symbolic of cognitive, emotional or psychological state.”
What can the audience expect from Naked Boys Singing?
“If they know the show – and it does have a cult following – they’re going to get very excited by where we’ve taken it. It has a bold new sophistication about it. It’s comically written and the routines are jam-packed with a million jokes a minute but it has sophistication in its delivery. For people who don’t know the show we have a few obstacles they have to really listen to the storytelling the boys have to really deliver the action as one.  Each song represents a new story so at the beginning we have to be sure to set up i.e. who they are, where they are, why they’re doing what they’re doing etc. but I’m really excited because you can not know the story and be truly entertained by the show.”
According to its pre-show promotion, this musical is meant to ‘kick down’ the taboo of the male body in its naked form – is this being achieved and if so, how is it?
“I guess the taboo is that we as a Western society are the only ones that feel the need to constantly cover up certain parts of our bodies and because we do that all the time the taboo is should we uncover it? But for other people and for our predecessors it’s not taboo.”
Should potential audience members feel nervous that they may be affronted with something that might offend them?
“No not at all!”
The pre-show billing says that this is the hottest ticket of the season – is that true, and how so?
“Because the steam will be coming off the stage – they start they do not stop – vocally, physically, narratively … great storytelling with no technology to assist!  The boys create absolutely everything you see: the sound, the visual, the action, everything!!  The most exciting thing about this project is to see where we’ve been above to take it creatively.”
What is your advice for Musical Theatre enthusiasts hoping to work professionally?
“There are a lot of students doing full time courses these days with an expectation that that is all they need to do to achieve their goals. It’s about you! You can either push yourself to grow within that course, or you can sit back and expect it all to happen around you with very little effort. Take it all in – especially all the different and amazing people you get to work with.  I find some young people are so quick to decide that a certain area of this industry is not for them. My advice is to GROW and LEARN from each instructor or mentor. Completely commit to learning as much as you can and take from that to make your own.
“Write things down because every day you get stacks of great information from wonderfully experienced people. When it strikes a cord with you, write it down. Because when you walk in for your first audition, no matter how well you sing in class, it all flies out the door. So write it all down to remind yourself – we have some amazing people in our industry teaching our youth – take it all in and do as much with every piece of advice and instruction as you can.”
The NAKED BOYS SINGING season ends in Sydney on 17th March before the show heads to Wollongong (23-24 March), Canberra (13-14 April), Newcastle (19-21 April), Melbourne (1-13 May) and on to Brisbane mid-May.
Tickets can be booked here