curtain up, pants down

5 stage shows that had audiences gagging over full frontal male nudity

Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams at the opening night of  Take Me Out on Broadway. Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

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

Take Me Out
The Broadway revival of Take Me Out. Film still via YouTube/Second Stage Theater

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.

Related: Balls, bats and brawn — ‘Take Me Out’ hits a home run

Equus

Daniel Radcliffe stars as Alan Strang) in Equus at the Gielgud Theatre. (Photo by robbie jack/Corbis via Getty Images)

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?’ ”

Hair

Hair the Musical
The 2003 Australian production of Hair. Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

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.

Daddy

Ronald Peet
Ronald Peet in “Daddy.” Photo by Matt Saunders

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.