Jesse Williams, the star of the Tony-winning revival of Take Me Out, nearly broke the internet a few weeks back when photos leaked of the actor’s full-frontal nudity. But Williams isn’t the first, nor will be the last, to let it all hang out for the sake of art.
Despite the production’s best efforts, which included sealing audience members’ phones in locked pouched, the rogue video went viral before it was snuffed out. The theatre has since installed infrared cameras to prevent another infraction.
Over the years, actors, both famous and on the rise, have given costume designers a brief reprieve by appearing au naturel. Just remember, what happens in the theatre stays in the theatre!
Take Me Out
Williams steps barefoot into the shower in a role originally created by Daniel Sunjata, but he’s not the only one baring all. The original 2003 production ran for nearly a year as audiences clamored to the Walter Kerr Theatre to see the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. In the Broadway revival, David Rockwell’s scenic design strategically positions the clubhouse showers downstage within splashable distance of the audience.
In his Broadway debut, a grown-up Daniel Radcliffe set aside his Harry Potter cape and other garments for a powerful performance in a revival of Peter Shaffer’s play about a young man obsessed with horses.
“It never really was an issue,” Radcliffe told the New York Times before the play’s opening in 2008. “I don’t know why, it probably should have been. I am terribly self-conscious. Although I remember I did look at my dad once and say, ‘Do you think I could wear pants?’ ”
Set in the 1960s East Village, Hair (subtitled The American Tribal Love Rock Musical) played for 1,750 performances during its original run. Director Diana Paulus, who is currently helming an all-female and nonbinary production of 1776, helmed a Tony-winning 2008 revival starring Gavin Creel.
One of the show’s co-creators, James Rado, told Broadway.com that the nude scene was not gratuitous. “It was a cry for freedom, and it reflected the reality of what was happening.” A city ordinance at the time permitted nudity “as long as the actors didn’t move,” Rado said.
Jeremy O. Harris, whose Broadway production of Slave Play earned the most non-musical Tony nominations in the award’s history, also penned “Daddy,” a provocative look at race, sexuality and power structures. The Off-Broadway production co-starred Alan Cumming as a wealthy art collector and Ronald Peet as an artist on the rise. Harris used David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures)” as a visual reference point, though the characters’ sexual chemistry was more stimulating than a 50-year-old canvas.
Naked Boys Singing!
We love a show title that tells you exactly what to expect. This clothing-free revue features 15 songs with the aptly titled opening number “Gratuitous Nudity.” First premiering in West Hollywood in 1998, the show eventually migrated east for an Off-Broadway run. A film version was released in 2007, and a new production recently opened at Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
It lasted only 38 performances, and even a seductive bathtub scene between Cory Michael Smith and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) couldn’t save Richard Greenberg’s clunky stage adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella of the same name. New York Times critic Ben Brantley was equally unimpressed, writing, “Ms. Clarke’s Holly is more obviously made of solid flesh, most of which is unnecessarily on display (along with that of Mr. Smith) in a bathtub scene in the second act. The spectacle of nakedness at that point eclipses what is meant to be a major turn of plot.” Maybe less bubbles and more brawn next time?