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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


The Full Monty

The Full Monty
(Back Row) Todd Horman, Allen E. Read; (Front Row) Robert Newman, Milton Craig Nealy and Jeremy Webb
The Pittsburgh CLO features a lively finish for the 2007 season with The Full Monty. The musical, following blue collar workers going for a Chippendales-style performance for quick cash, features a jazzy-rock score by David Yazbek and a book by Terrence McNally (based on the Fox film). The Fully Monty is not a genteel musical; it features some crass and vulgar dialogue, and a cynical viewpoint. But, thanks to the CLO and Mungioli Theatricals and their effective casting efforts, this ensemble pulls the audience along for a fun, escapist ride.

The story is simple: Jerry Lukowski (James Moye) is in a fix. He and his buddies have been laid off from the factory for some time, and Jerry will lose custody of his son Nathan (Eric Williams) if he doesn't come up with overdue child support in a hurry. After seeing the effect visiting male strippers have on the local female population, Jerry concocts a plan for "regular" guys to strip off to g-strings for a one-night only box office bonanza. Eventually, the stakes rise and he promises the boys will go "the full monty," sans g-strings, in order to sell tickets. Each of his cohorts has his own little story, which we see evolve as things build to the big night.

Admittedly, the film presented the story much better. The basic premise is the same, but the film was set in the depressed steel town of Sheffield, England and there was a much grittier view of the mens' plight, though it was combined with humor. The moving of the setting to Buffalo, NY and the Americanization of the characters brings a more sitcomish feel to the proceedings, but Yazbek's score is a big plus, and, though we're never in doubt as to what will happen, it is satisfying to watch the characters develop character as they lose their fear of exposing themselves.

Moye is efficient as the wise-guy boy next door. Jerry's fathering skills are dubious, but he sincerely loves his son, and Moye hits a vocal highpoint with the sweet, lullaby-ish "Breeze Off the River." As Jerry's best friend, Dave Bukatinsky, Todd A. Horman is authentic and endearing as he battles self-esteem issues related to his excess weight. Moye and Horman have fun with the irreverent song, "Big Ass Rock." Malcolm MacGregor (Allen E. Read) is boyish, timid and lives at home with an house-bound, demanding mother. Read does a great job with a tender character; he invests great emotion without going overboard with the beautiful anthem "You Walk With Me." Jeremy Webb is terrific as Ethan Girard (though he never masters the final dance trick his character is obsessed with), who enthusiasticly volunteers for the strip show and eventually helps Malcolm move on with his life. TV soap star Robert Newman is a bit of odd casting as Harold Nichols, usually a slightly built man who is afraid of disappointing his wife whom he spoils richly. Newman is robust, with leading man looks, though he does a nice job of cowering and is fun to watch. As Noah "Horse" T. Simmons, who fears he is not as big a "Big Black Man" as he thinks he should be, is very nicely played by Milton Craig Nealy.

The Full Monty
Sally Struthers
Most of the women in the cast have little to do, but all are excellent. As Dave's wife Georgie, Donna Lynne Champlin shows a sincere love for her husband, and she does a great job of keeping the energy high on stage. Joanna Glushak is a hoot as Harold's materialistic wife Vicki, and she has great success with the showy "Life With Harold" number. The character of Pam Lukowski is pretty weakly written, but Beth Beyer performs well, especially when allowed to come out of her shell a bit. The big "star" name of this production is Sally Struthers as "seen it all, done it all" piano player Jeannette Burmeister. Struthers is superb in this role, mining all of the humor and playing it at the right level, with great timing. With a cigarette continually hanging from her lips, spewing blue zingers right and left, Struthers' Jeanette shows the old broad can teach the boys a few tricks.

Director/choreographer Barry Ivan keeps things going at a very nice pace, though some scenes seem to end abruptly. The dancing does not look tremendously challenging, but every number is clever and appropriate - well done for a one-week show with a brief rehearsal period. It's to Ivan's credit, as well as the actors', that the cast truly inhabits the characters, and the audience is sold on the idea that they're seeing regular guys fearfully going "all the way" for cash and for dignity.

Mention must be made of Tom Helm and the CLO orchestra, who once again provide excellent musical support on this vibrant score.


See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.


-- Ann Miner

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