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San Francisco by Richard Connema

An Unpretentious Production of The Full Monty

Also see Richard's reviews of The Tempest and Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men

The Full Monty
Wendell H. Wilson, Derek Travis Collard, Joshua Fryvecind, Ross Neuenfeldt, David Mister and
C. J. Dion

Ray of Light Theatre's The Full Monty starts very slowly, and the balance between the large orchestra and singers always seems to be in favor of the band. At the performance I attended, many of the lyrics were lost, especially in "It's A Woman's World", "Life with Harold" and "Big-Ass Rock." Although the band rocks under the baton of Ben Prince, it is just too big a band for the small Eureka Theatre. However, in the second act the lyrics of "Jeannette's Showbiz Number" and "You Walk with Me" are clearly heard. Hopefully, this has improved as the musical continues through June 30th.

The Full Monty closely follows the British film; however, it's now Buffalo, New York, where times are hard. The show really takes off in the sidesplitting audition scene as the anxious prospects strip to show their worth—or other characteristics, in the case of Ethan, played very well by Ross Neuenfeldt. The highlight of the scene is sixty-ish and hobbling Horse, played beautifully by Wendell H. Wilson. He brings the show down with his rendition of "Big Black Man."

What can you say about the final scene, with the sight of six very assorted men, most of whom look as though they have been raising a beer glass or eating a large cheeseburger rather than lifting weights, taking off their clothes. Of course, we don't really get to see the "full monty," due to the work of Lighting Designer Cathie Anderson. Stage designer Maya Linke uses the small stage to good effect to present this audience friendly show. The seven-piece orchestra sits directly behind the set.

Much of the humor in Terrence McNally's snappy libretto and David Yazbek's jazzy music and sly lyrics derives from these would be Chippendales confronting self-esteem challenges, stage fright, and macho double standards to put together their bare-all show.

Joshua Fryvecind has good vocal chops as Jerry Lukowski, an unemployed father. It's an adult version of the Mickey Rooney "Hey kids, let's put on a show" scenario. His interactions with ex-wife Pam (Leslie Waggoner) are convincing, and there is compassion believably played with son Nathan, handled ably by newcomer Elijah Diamond, to give the play its real face. J.D. Dion provides able support to Jerry as the cumbersome buddy Dave, and Ross Neuenfeldt gives an energy-driven performance as Ethan, a Donald O'Connor wannabe. Wendell H. Wilson rocks the house with his bumping and spinning and great funky chicken in the "Big Black Man" number. Derek Travis Collard's low-key Harold is good.

The female roar of emancipation, "It's a Woman's World," is led with verve by Helen Laroche as Georgie, Dave's wife. Brie Martin has great vocal chops singing "Life with Harold" while singer/songwriter/bandleader Cami Thompson is outstanding as the spunky Jeannette Burmeister, the showbiz pianist. She has a lot of pizzazz singing "Jeanette's Showbiz Number." This consummate artist is a fail-safe comic engine as Jeannette, who doesn't mince words when assessing her very immature colleagues.

Melinda Campero, Sophia Campobasso, Katherine Cooper, Danielle DiPaola, Maria Duzon, Philippe Gosselin, Sara Hauter, Daniel Hurst, David Mister, Bill Tankovich, Chris Uzelac and Gwynn Villegas are effective in their various roles.

Mary Kalita's choreography is exuberant, especially the basketball-inspired dance number "Michael Jordan's Ball" and the strip show finale "Let it Go." The production is crisply directed by Peter Cattaneo.

The Full Monty plays at the Eureka Theatre through June 30th. Tickets can be obtained by going to www.roltheatre.com. Coming up next is Sweeney Todd, opening at the Eureka Theatre on July 13th.


Photo: Claire Rice

- Richard Connema



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