Lots of folks walk around the house in their underwear. The Naked Cowboy has become a Times Square fixture by strumming his guitar in public clad only in his tighty-whities. But Broadway babies Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley have taken flaunting their mostly bare bods to new levels of professional success with their popular band the Skivvies.
The pair, who are often joined by such celebrity friends as Tony Award-winning sitcom star Laura Benanti and NCIS’s Barrett Foa, can be found entertaining sold-out crowds in such swanky settings as New York’s red-hot 54 Below, Pittsburgh’s City Theatre, Los Angeles’s Rockwell Table & Stage and even the legendary Roseland Ballroom, where they recently performed in Broadway Bares XXIII.
However, the duo still cherishes their gigs at gay bars like New York’s Industry and Therapy, where they first gained notoriety - not to mention their gay fans. "We love the gay bars for their intimacy and fun settings, and they’re especially great for trying out new material," says Cearley, who is married to lawyer Eric Lesh. "It is so nice to have the support of the gay community, especially since they are known for their exquisite taste."
Their fans’ tastes may be not only exquisite but also eclectic, since the Skivvies incorporate all types of music into their repertoire. "Our music choices really run the gamut from electric dance music to show tunes to classic rock. We would never limit ourselves to just one genre, and we keep trying to top ourselves; so each show, we raise the bar a little," says Molina. "But what attracts us most often is the lyrics. The more exposed the lyrics, the more we can use the song for maximum comic effect."
Music is in both Molina’s and Cearley’s blood. Molina plays 10 instruments and is the daughter of the principal bassist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, while Cearley is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory and a trained pianist, like his father. "I was taught by a nun who came to my house for 14 years every Tuesday," notes Cearley, who also plays the glockenspiel, the melodica and boomwhackers.
Nonetheless, forming a rock band was hardly on the twosome’s agenda when they first bonded while touring with a children’s theater production of the musical "Just So Stories." "We started making up silly songs on the guitar to pass the time," says Molina. "Our mutual love for all different kinds of music was a common thread, and we realized immediately how quickly we were able to finish each other’s sentences. We quickly became best friends."
Back in New York, the pair began making music together in their free time, and one particular afternoon’s adventure led to the creation of the band. "We went to the deli to get a sandwich and Rihanna’s ’We Found Love’ was playing. I said: ’God, this song drives me nuts. It just sounds like electronic noise. I wonder if there are even chords to this song,’ " recalls Cearley.
"So we went upstairs to Lauren’s apartment to figure it out on the guitar. And sure enough, there were four chords. So we played with the time signature and made it a slow 6/8 waltz/march kind of feel. We were just going to record it, but then Lauren suggested we film it for YouTube. While she was changing her clothes, she asked what she should wear for the video, and I said, ’Why don’t you just wear that?’ She was just wearing a bra. But since we were essentially stripping down the song, it made perfect sense. And that’s how the Skivvies was born!"
What could have been a one-time gimmick, however, became a full-fledged concept. "Performing in our underwear is fun and freeing. There is an instant vulnerability that is obtained by being in our underwear," says Molina. "I think that it feels as though the audience is instantly on our side because we are so exposed. And after a while, it’s as if the audience forgets we are in our underwear. Our arrangements stand alone."
While the pluses outweigh the minuses, there are a couple of drawbacks to wearing only your scanties. "It is cold in the winter," says Molina. "And I think when we’re onstage, Nick sweats a little more than me, so his ukulele and guitar get a little more slippery as the concert goes on, making them gradually more difficult to hold. I think it’s time to get a strap."
It’s also time, perhaps, for an underwear company to step up to the plate with a sponsorship. "We would love that," says Molina, who favors Victoria’s Secret lingerie, while Cearley often can be found in colorful Andrew Christian briefs.
This summer, fans will be seeing a little less of the band than usual, since Molina is starring in Second Stage Theatre’s new musical "Nobody Loves You" (in which she doffs her costume for a big number called "Come On In" as she tries to lure a good Christian boy into a hot tub). "We both have successful theatre careers, so if one of us is doing a show, we have to work around that schedule," says Molina, whose Broadway credits include John Doyle’s Tony Award-winning revival of "Sweeney Todd" and the megahit "Rock of Ages."
However, their plans for the future remain sunny - as well as ambitious. They’ve got a list of dream celebrity guests, ranging from Neil Patrick Harris and Justin Timberlake to Kristen Wiig and Zooey Deschanel. They have plans to follow up their recently released "Hardbody Hoedown," directed by famed author Augusten Burroughs (husband of their manager, Christopher Schelling), with more videos, and they’d love to release an album with a DVD. "Our music has such a visual component to it," says Cearley.
Most of all, they’re determined to never stop showing up and stripping down, no matter where the road leads them. "We do go by the motto ’Have instruments, will travel,’ " says Molina.