Much as space ships and dinosaurs emerge in the cinemas in the summer, the sleazy back-alley Fringe is yielding up brazenly trashy crowd pleasers of its own as the weather heats up. It’s not the time for Ibsen: it’s time for Rent Boy: The Musical. Yes, the Above the Stag Theater has arranged the perfect entertainment for sultry summer nights, and about the only reason I could imagine anyone getting motivated to get off of a riverside patio (with iced beverages) and into a theater: a show with lots of sexy men in it being silly and hopefully not wearing a lot of clothes (at times, at least).
Rent Boy‘s premise is that we’re at the Hookie awards, where the MC (Frank Loman) is announcing who has won prizes for being the best in the escort industry. The award are somewhat as you might have expected (best SM experience, best newcomer), but generally speaking are riding the comic edge – the tipoff being that “pro” names include such winners as Don K Dick (yes, the humor is bawdy). But the real point of the awards is to give us a chance to meet various escort types – the “I’m really straight” boy, the horny soldier, et cetera – as well as to introduce us to some scenarios associated with working in the sex industry – the all-gigolo houseshare (and yes there are side benefits that go beyond living with people who “understand”), the difficulty in separating your emotional and your sexual life. The people and the situations are illustrated with a pile of generally not too serious songs exploring these themes (“The Boyfriend Thing” and personal favorite “That’ll Be A Little Bit More” doing exactly what it says on the tin), all of which are catch and fun and if there’s anything to worry about in this profession, well, it does not come up in this show. Other than getting old, of course.
The talent is generally, shall we say, up for it in varying degrees (as showcased wonderfully in the final song, “Who Invented the Jockstrap,” which should win its own prize for the smallest and sparkliest costumes on a male cast), although there were some sound balance qualities between the singing and the music, which at times overpowered the cast (especially a problem for solos). But really, this show is not meant to be a deeply (snicker) rearched tome on the rise and fall of the rent boy; it’s a fantasy fun time full of bad puns and triple entendres. I found it impossible not to enjoy myself, especially when Mr Don K (Henry Collie) came up and gave me a smooch at the end of the show. Even a girl like me likes to live the dream, and Rent Boy had me imagining bevies of boys floating me along on their shoulders …. aah! And all that just for the cost of ticket – who could say no?
(This show is for the opening night performance, which took place on Friday, June 26, 2015. It has already been extended through to August 2nd.)