“Undie-Rock” act The Skivvies Bring Their “I Touch My Elf” Tour to Ludlow Garage

The Skivvies (literally) strip down holiday classics in their latest tour.

Nov 22, 2019 at 12:33 pm

click to enlarge Nick Cearley (left) and Lauren Molina , both halves of The Skivvies. - Jacqueline Patton Photography
Jacqueline Patton Photography
Nick Cearley (left) and Lauren Molina , both halves of The Skivvies.
Nick Cearley and Lauren Molina — both halves of musical act The Skivvies — perform stripped-down takes of today’s hits and past classics. Literally: While performing, they sport nothing but their underwear. Once described as treating the stage “like a glorified sandbox for grown-up children” and both “paradoxically sophisticated and innocent” by The New York Times, the duo also has Cincinnati ties.

Having grown up in Fairfield, Cearley trained as a young dancer at a Cincinnati studio. Now working in New York City, he’s returned over the years to perform as a Streisand fan in Buyer & Cellar at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (2015), as nerdy Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors at the Playhouse (2017) and earlier this year as shy, thoughtful Linus in the Playhouse’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Detroit-native Molina joined him in Charlie Brown as the overbearing Lucy. In fact, the pair co-conceived the production, which featured actors playing their own instruments.

Molina, a classically trained cellist, performed on Broadway in 2005 in the Tony Award-winning actor/musician production of Sweeney Todd. She also originated the role of Regina in the 1980s-infused musical Rock of Ages when it began on Off-Broadway’s New World Stages.

But together, Molina and Cearley are The Skivvies. Singing eclectic covers, eccentric originals and hilarious mashups, they’ve performed locally a few times at Ensemble Theatre and Hamilton’s Fitton Center. They’re regulars in New York City at Joe’s Pub and the cabaret stage at the Public Theater and have performed shows in Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and more. This fall they’re touring a holiday show — “I Touch My Elf” — that will stop at Cincinnati’s Ludlow Garage on Friday, Dec. 6.

Molina and Cearley first met in 2003 doing a children’s theater tour, performing in what Cearley terms “the grandest cafetoriums in the land.” Recognizing one another’s musical skills and a shared comedic sensibility, they began to perform in each other’s gigs. Hanging out one afternoon in 2012, they decided to put a cover of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” on YouTube.

“We decided to take the song and strip it down. We just did it on ukulele and guitar,” Molina says. “I was trying to figure out what to wear for the video, walking around my bedroom in my bra, and Nick said, ‘Why don’t we just do that?’”

From there, they did a stripped-down video series featuring covers by artists like Carole King and Robyn. It went viral. Molina’s boyfriend suggested they call themselves The Skivvies, a slang term for underwear. Eventually, they took their concept to the stage, where the lack of clothing for themselves and special guests has since been a hook for attention.

Cearley says people have told him, “You guys are too talented. You don’t have to take your clothes off.” His answer: “Well, if we hadn’t, you wouldn’t have clicked.”

Their talent is as evident as their uninhibited appearances. Though the collaborators have also performed together in Off-Broadway’s Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man and as Brad and Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Bucks County Playhouse, The Skivvies has become a significant component of their performing careers.

“We’re pretty equal in terms of our ideas,” Molina says. “We collaborate, so if one person has an idea, the other one brainstorms what they think could be funny or how the song could be improved.”

Their set list routinely includes mashups such as Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” paired with Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”; another cross is “Alexander Hamilton” from Broadway’s Hamilton with Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.” At one point, Molina borrows an audience member’s cell phone, scans text messages and creates a song on the spot.

Molina and Cearley are front and center performing what they might call “Undie Rock.” She plays electronic cello; he’s often on the ukulele. But they are quick to pick up offbeat instruments — from a glockenspiel to a toy melodica — as well as improvised items such as plastic PVC pipes, which underscores their playful approach.

Their Cincinnati appearance comes at the beginning of their holiday tour, the aforementioned “I Touch My Elf,” a riff on the 1990s hit “I Touch Myself” by Australian Rock band Divinyls. With a comedic bent, they’ll press together classic holiday tunes with modern songs like “The Little Drummer Boy” with The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” and “Frosty the Snowman” with Modern English’s “I Melt with You.” They’ve even developed a special Hanukkah number.

Performing with them will be Matt Doyle, a Broadway veteran (Spring Awakening, War Horse, The Book of Mormon) who was recently announced for the cast of the gender-bending production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company coming to Broadway from London. Local actress Sara Mackie, a regular at Ensemble Theatre, also joins them.

“Even though we’re in our underwear, don’t think of this as a raunchy show,” Molina says. “It’s really about the music, and it’s really a good time for all ages — maybe 16 and above. It’s more like a big pajama party.”

The Skivvies will perform at the Ludlow Garage (342 Ludlow Ave, Clifton) at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 6; doors open at 7 p.m. More info/tickets: ludlowgaragecincinnati.com.