Best friends Dave and Jerry find themselves among those unemployed by their Buffalo, NY steel mill. A divorced Jerry faces the unpleasant reality of losing joint custody of his son if unable to pay child support. An overweight Dave struggles with his loss of his role as the family bread winner. Their ex-boss, Harold Nichols, hides his job loss from his wife, fearing her reaction if he is no longer able to keep her in the life style to which she has become accustomed.
Buffalo is a working class town where most wives work as hard as their husbands, and after work they blow off steam with nights out with the girls. When the men observe how crazy the women are about their nights out at a male strip show, Jerry gets the idea to put on a strip show of their own to raise money quickly. They have but two weeks to audition additional men, put together a show, and learn how to dance. True, they do not have the bodies of Chippendale dancers, but they have something more: they are "real men," and they plan to go all the way, that is to say fully naked - "the full monty"!
If "the full Monty" means to go all the way, it can be said that these men go the full monty to regain some of what they have lost of themselves. Together, they go the distance and cement their friendships in their solidarity. More than just money, they gain the assurance that they are loved by those who count, regardless of their income or appearance. In a show possibly avoided by some for its sexual references, scantily clad men, and fleeting second of full frontal male nudity, it is an interestingly unexpected family value.
The book for The Full Monty was written by four time Tony Award winner, Terrence McNally, whose credits include Master Class and Ragtime. His writing for the musical carries on the feel established by the film with a contemporary American style. David Yazbek has written the music and lyrics in a pop-rock genre, accurately aimed to represent the common middle-class man. There are some hits and misses in the score, the most well-written melody in the show being "You Walk With Me." However, if you are up for comedy, then "Big-Ass Rock" is the song for you. There are several songs whose melodies are quickly forgotten, despite the memorable acting moments surrounding them.
At the Actor's Playhouse, musical director Eric Alsford conducts and plays the show well. The seven-piece live pit orchestra is very clean - especially the horn section. The lighting for the show is a bit off, however, casting shadows on actor's faces and on set pieces in a distracting way. At the performance I attended, "Jeanette's Showbiz Number" suffered due to her muffled microphone, but the sound is generally good. Choreography by Barbara Flaten is right on the money.
Actor's Playhouse audiences will recognize many familiar faces in this cast as director David Arisco has brought them back from previous shows this season. A fresh face, Eric Leviton, has an undeniable strong comedic presence as Dave. Reggie Whitehead, as Horse, delightfully surprises the audience both with his singing and his dancing. Though Jessica Elam is bland as Jerry's wife Pam, Danielle Worth is hysterical as Estelle. Michael Turner is endearing as Ethan, and Irene Adjan has a realistic warmth as Dave's wife Georgie. Both she and Stacy Schwartz, as Harold's wife Vicki, nail the reprise of "You Rule My World". Brian M. Golub, as Malcolm, sings "You Walk With Me" with a memorable haunting beauty. The audience was generally titillated throughout the performance. Hopefully, the audience payoff is in feeling, at the end of this show, as though they are rooting for these men as if they were friends and family putting it on the line by doing "the full monty".
The Full Monty will appear at Actors' Playhouse through April 9, 2006. The theatre is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, FL. Actors' Playhouse is a professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The theatre has received nearly 50 Carbonell Awards, and recently received 32 nominations for its past 2005 - 2006 season. Actor's Playhouse produces musicals, comedies and children's theatre shows year round, and offers a full range of classes for all experience levels. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or on line at www.actorsplayhouse.org.
Publicity Photographer: Ruben Romeu
* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Review by John Lariviere