ORLANDO – Nick Gray is confident, as he looks toward the spring, that he has the means to provide this region with something new, exciting, visually stunning — an experience they won’t quickly forget.
“You’re going to cry,” Gray said. “You’re going to laugh, and you’re going to be stimulated,” he said.
Throughout January and February, Gray – who wears many hats, including operating his own entertainment company, Visual EFX Productions – is fine-tuning the live show that he plans to premiere in March. Part-autobiography, and part a return to a form of entertainment not easy to find these days, Gray said he hopes to reintroduce audiences to the wonders of male burlesque.
“I have a male burlesque show that will be performed the whole month of March,” he said. “This will be my first big show.”
And he is promising a unique experience, no matter what people’s expectations may be.
“No one has seen an all-male burlesque show that has the nudity, but it also has the sensuality and the music and the humor,” he said. “It’s telling the story of me growing up in Jamaica, the last of 11 kids – and not coming out until I was 21. Your family will kill you if you are gay in Jamaica, and if your family will do that, think of what other people will do to you.”
“Boylesque: Evolve2Men,” as the show will be called, is going to premiere at the place that Gray has worked at since 2001 as a bartender, dancer and performer: The Parliament House, the gay-friendly resort on Orange Blossom Trail that has also attracted plenty of straight audiences through live shows at its Footlight Theatre.
“Boylesque” will be performed every Saturday night there in March, starting at 8 p.m. on March 2.
“I’ve been working on this show for a while,” Gray said. “It’s always been on my mindset. I’ve always been able to put together a show easily. I say ‘I see this many people on stage doing this.’ I just have this innate ability to do that.”
Burlesque has been a popular form of entertainment within the gay community for decades. The Gaiety Theatre in Times Square in Manhattan was a gay male burlesque theater for nearly 30 years, until it closed in March 2005.
But it’s a form of entertainment not limited to gay audiences, wrote Claire Doble in an article titled “The Art of Male Burlesque” in the women’s magazine Filament.
“Burlesque, at its best, is cheeky, entertaining and in an increasingly airbrushed world, real,” Doble wrote. “The wobbling thigh, the dodgy tattoo, the home-made costume – something we can each identify with as human beings. Nude human bodies are both beautiful and fascinating, and it seems about time that both women and men are becoming increasingly bored with the cliché that the male form is silly-looking and awkward compared with the female form.”
Gray said he, too, appreciates the talent and creativity that goes into burlesque, and has spent the past few years developing this show.
“I’ve worked for other people, and now I want to work for myself,” he said. “It’s a show no one is going to be expecting.”
Gray was born in Jamaica, a country where attitudes are notoriously negative about homosexuality. Even when his family relocated to Miami, and he made his way to Orlando, those negative perceptions of gays persisted, he said. But Gray was able to persevere – and find success.
“I went to college and got a degree in business,” he said. But he found much greater success as a performer. He went to work at Walt Disney World as a dancer in the “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” live shows. He had found his calling.
“I’m a natural dancer,” he said. “I’m a free-styler, but I’m really a choreographer, too.”
His path into live performance also enabled Gray to change his family’s attitudes.
“My mom said ‘You can’t make a career out of this,’ and when she saw me in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ she cried tears and said ‘I’m so sorry,’ ” he said.
After working for years at both Disney and The Parliament House, Gray decided in 2008 to develop his own production company. “Boylesque,” he said, has been years in the making.
“It’s going to be anywhere from 10 to 14 performers,” he said. “There will be six core dancers, and a hostess of the show. Every person I’ve picked for the show wants to be a part of it. It takes work and time to train people. That’s what I’m doing in my burlesque show. It’s been evolving my whole life. I got the balls to say I’m not going to give my ideas to other people.’ ”
And he’s supremely confident that audiences will connect with this show.
“It’s going to be huge,” he said. “It’s very different.”
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