Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Bare puts the sacred back in sexy

Musical about altar boy love premieres Jul 17

Catholic school boys really haven’t enjoyed the titillating reputation of their female counterparts. After all, hetero male fantasies are just crotch-full of young Britneys cavorting around in teensy skirts and crucifixes, while Catholic boys are generally relegated to TV movies about paedophilic priests. Well, fear not, oh ye of papist perversion, the musical Bare arrives in Toronto on Fri, Jul 17 to put the sacred back in sexy.

The story opens with dutiful altar boy Peter (played by Wade Muir) waking up from a horrifying nightmare during a snooze-inducing mass. The distraught boy has been in a secret relationship with schoolmate Jason (Graham Parkhurst) and his dreams had been full of public revelation and condemnation. Despite these fears, Peter longs for their love to be open and free, while Jason is lodged firmly in the closet. He loves Peter, but is torn by his religious upbringing and his reputation as the school’s golden boy.

Things come to a head when Jason wins the role of Romeo in the school play, playing opposite resident bad girl Ivy (Alison O’Neill). Torn between his love for Peter and his desire for social acceptance, Jason ponders a future with Ivy while his boyfriend fights the desire to reveal all.

“Peter doesn’t need popularity because Jason is his whole life,” says director Brian Gregory-Waters, “but there’s a lot of pressure on Jason from his parents to excel at everything. That means getting the lead in the school play, being the jock and having the hottest girl in school.”

The plan, of course, backfires. Another schoolmate, Matt (David Sazant), has seen the boys sharing a kiss and this further inflames his ambition to win the delectable Ivy. Jason’s twin sister Nadia (Claire Rouleau) also isn’t much help: Too wrapped up in her insecurity toward Ivy, she fails to notice that Jason is rapidly nearing the breaking point. The only real support available is a helpful nun (Nichola Lawrence) who assures Peter that “God Don’t Make No Trash” in a rousing gospel number.

Gregory-Waters, a recent graduate of Brock University’s theatre program, was first attracted to the musical after a friend loaned him a bootleg of the original soundtrack recording. “It’s just beautiful music,” he says, “a sort of mix between Rent and Spring Awakening.”

Playwright Jon Hartmere Jr wrote the piece in the late 1990s with composer Damon Intrabartolo, whose credits include scores for The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns and Gothika, as well as orchestrating and conducting the cinematic version of Dreamgirls. The musical enjoyed fairly brief but well-received runs in Los Angeles, Houston and New York under its original title, Bare: A Pop Opera and was nominated for a 2005 GLAAD Media Award.

Novice music director Chris Tsujiuchi enjoys his first paid gig with the show’s Canadian premiere, the debut production from WatersEdge Productions, and hopes the musical will attract audience members from across the social spectrum.

“I think that Bare’s a powerful piece that has the potential to change people’s minds if they’re homophobic,” says Tsujiuchi. “Part of me hopes that a lot of people in the audience are of that mindset. If everyone who comes to see Bare is completely liberal about their attitudes toward homosexuality then it’s not really theatre — it’s just entertainment.”

Tsujiuchi feels shows like Bare are an important step in his plan to focus on message-driven stories and confront ignorance. “Entertainment is frivolous,” he says. “Theatre is an art form. I don’t want to be entertaining; I want to make people think.”

Bare’s large ensemble cast also features David Alves, Alex Dvorak, Nicholas Fedele, Jeremy LaPalme, Amanda Milligan, Travis Paul, Antonette Rudder, Cory Strong, Sarah Thorpe, Renee Stein, Emma VanBuskirk and Louisa Zhu.