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'Bathhouse: The Musical!' is good, clean fun

“The Phantom of the Opera” has its chandelier.

“Miss Saigon” has its helicopter.

“Bathhouse: The Musical!” has its steam.

It’s a nifty stage effect in this cute revue, now camping it up at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

And, yes, “cute” just about covers it. The show is more of a chuckle fest than a laugh riot. The humor rarely gets any more down and dirty than, say, an episode of “The Golden Girls” or “Sex and the City.”

What is particularly notable about this production is, despite many opportunities for some exploitative nudity, “Bathhouse” keeps all the dangly bits tucked away. In fact, it is rather impressive just how many “costume” changes there are for a towel-based wardrobe.

Scored by Tim Evanicki and Esther Daack, the silly show is about a shy young man named Billy who recently came out of the closet and goes to a gay bathhouse looking for love. The other patrons, all veterans of bathhouse bacchanalia, have to school Billy in bathhouse etiquette and how to look for Mr. Right Now instead of Mr. Right.

“Ask yourself: Is this the guy you want to spend the next 10 minutes with?” intones a voice-over, the framing device that keeps the mini musical moving through 80 intermission-free minutes.

The songs — with titles such as “Bathhouse ABCs,” “Seduction Tango” and “Penises Are Like Snowflakes” — range in style from show tunes to blues, country and gospel, and the cast sings them well, even with gusto. But you either have a feel for this kind of material or you don’t. Some of the actors could relax into the rhythm of the show a bit more and let the punch lines do the heavy lifting. That way, “Bathhouse: The Musical!” could build up some musical-comedy steam.

“Bathhouse: The Musical!” runs through April 30 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, with 4 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $35 and $50. To order, call 888-202-1708 or go to BathhouseTheMusical.com.

rhagwood@southflorida.com

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