Andy Karl, James Franco, Alan Cumming and More Strip Down for a Good Cause at Broadway Bares: Rock Hard!

Broadway Bares, the annual celebration of Broadway’s most beautiful (bare) bodies, rolled out its 24th edition June 22 with a salute to classic rock ‘n’ roll, lasciviously titled Rock Hard!

Joey Taranto and Matthew Saldivar
Joey Taranto and Matthew Saldivar (Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN)

*

Stars including Andy Karl of Rocky, James Franco of Of Mice and Men, Patrick Page of Casa Valentina, Lesli Margherita of Matilda the Musical and Alan Cumming of Cabaret joined more than 180 buff dancers in giving the crowd an ample peek at what’s under their pretty Broadway costumes.

A special guest was Alex Minsky, the hunky tattooed ex-Marine who has built a career as a model despite having to wear a prosthetic leg owing to a wartime injury.

The event is held as a fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Because a substantial portion of the evening’s cash proceeds have to be gathered from the jockstraps and g-strings they were tucked into by appreciative audience members in the show’s finale, the total proceeds from the event were still being tabulated the following morning. The 2013 edition garnered $1,254,176.

Directed by Nick Kenkel, this year’s Broadway Bares christened its new home, the Hammerstein Ballroom on 34th Street, after losing its longtime nest at the Roseland Ballroom on 52nd Street when that venerable hall closed its doors earlier this year. In comparison with  the more traditional Gypsy of the Year and Easter Bonnet fundraising events,  Bares combines Broadway with burlesque. There is much less emphasis on skits and jokes and much more emphasis on dancing and bare skin. Most segments ended with the dancers clad in little more than pasties and g-strings, with bare buttocks galore.

The 75-minute show opened with two dads ( Matthew Saldivar and Joey Taranto) complaining that they had been dragged to a One Direction concert by their daughters and reminiscing about the great old days of rock. Through the magic of Broadway Bares, they were whisked back in time to watch performances inspired by the likes of Elvis, Michael Jackson, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin and Prince, with their memories putting the sex back in sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. The opening number was choreographed by Kenkel with original music by Matthew Sklar and original dialogue and lyrics by Amanda Green ( Hands on a Hardbody).

Performers pay tribute to Elvis
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Among the evening’s highlights:

• A tribute to the raw sexuality of Elvis Presley that ended with his backup singers in jockstraps and the Elvis-like main singer clad in nothing but a suggestive guitar. Choreographer: Kellen Stancil.

• A salute to Michael Jackson featured a woman in a white jacket and hat performing “Billie Jean” as a slow waltz that ended with bare chests all around. Choreographer: Kenkel.

• The inevitable Queen segment had a bit more plot and comedy. A woman dressed in royal robes, accompanied by her attendant, used various means to arouse her supposedly imperturbable, bearskin hat-wearing guards. As one guard after another fell to her ministrations, the attendant popped a balloon hidden in the hat, causing it to deflate suggestively. When her majesty finally found a guard who was able to withstand her teasing, a happy ending was had by all. Choreographer: Peter Gregus.

• The Beatles’ “Good Night, Sleep Tight” started with a man dressed as a child with a teddy bear, but his “dream” transformed into of Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics in fetish wear to the music of Metallica. By the finale, only the teddy bear stood between him and the audience. Choreographers: Kenkel and Zach Hensler.

• Aerial acrobatics were also featured in the Aerosmith sequence, which included blonde angels with golden wings and buff gymnasts contorting on a rack of metal pipes suspended above the audience. Choreographer: Michael Lee Scott.

Charlie Sutton of Kinky Boots was the highlight of the Tina Turner section, danced to “Private Dancer.” Choreographer: John Alix.

• A hats (etc.)-off to the Rolling Stones showed a group of sexual newbies singing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” But they were soon shown how to do so by a hunky therapist aided by a versatile blow-up doll. By the end, everyone seemed to be getting some form of satisfaction after all. Choreographer: Jim Cooney.

• A running gag had Lesli Margherita as a strict club doorwoman determined not to allow entrance to anyone without a pass. As it happens, most of those trying to gain entrance without a pass were the biggest stars of the evening — and the doorwoman’s price of entry was showing some skin. After pretending to box with Rocky’s Andy Karl, she allowed him and Patrick Page to enter by stripping off their shirts and showing off their sculpted chests. The gatekeeper was tougher with James Franco, who was forced to bare his bottom in order to gain entry.

• The only fully-clothed performance of the evening was Constantine Maroulis, shirtless underneath a leather jacket, who offered an unadorned rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine" as a fitting closing to the night.

In addition to tickets that ranged in price up to $1,000 for the 9:30 PM show and $750 for the midnight show, Broadway Bares: Rock Hard! ended with the traditional “rotation,” in which “Rotation Master” Christopher Sieber (of Matilda the Musical) urged the entire audience to make its way to the lip of the stage and runway and stuff hundred-dollar bills (or whatever denomination donors were inspired to share) into “every nook and cranny” of the dancers’ costumes. The dancers then smiled, wiggled, bumped, twerked, waved and vogued to inspire admirers’ generosity.