The Full Monty: The Musical (Short North Stage – Columbus, OH)

It’s always fun to attend new productions of plays that I’ve seen and enjoyed when I can bring someone new to see them for the first time. The Full Monty: The Musical is a show I’ve always found enjoyable, and I was fortunate to have attended its closing performance on Broadway on a Sunday matinee in September 2002. From its national tour a year or so later to a spring 2014 production at Otterbein and then The Human Race Theatre Company’s production in Dayton last fall, Short North Stage’s The Full Monty: The Musical is now the fifth production of this show that I’ve seen. This time I brought my friend Bianca who had no knowledge of the musical or the film from which it was based. I enticed her with the promise of male nudity, but it was the humor and heart of the piece that kept her interested.

The Full Monty: The Musical is based on the 1997 surprise hit film about a group of unemployed steel mill workers putting on a strip show to raise money for their families as well as raise their spirits. Theatre legend Terrence McNally adapted the screenplay for the stage, adeptly transplanting the action from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, with music and lyrics added by the criminally underrated David Yazbek, with “You Rule My World” and “You Walk With Me” the standouts from a consistently tuneful and appropriate score. While the play may have one too many manufactured obstacles at the end, The Full Monty: The Musical is very entertaining and, dare I say it, even moving in its depiction of men down on their luck banding together to prove to their families and themselves that they can rise above their current employment statuses and work together to accomplish a goal. 

 

Photo: Jerri Shafer
 
Director Edward Carignan deftly guides an energetic and jovial cast in this production, aided by a terrific set by Dick Block (who designed the same turntable set for The Human Race Theatre Company production in Dayton last fall and has adapted and expanded it here) and very clear and balanced sound designed by Kevin Rhodus. The sound for a musical is particularly important, and this production is the first to take advantage of Short North Stage’s new sound system; aside from a few blips here and there, voices are clear and the music (aided by music director Jeff Caldwell and conductor Jim Kucera) quite full-sounding without overpowering the vocal performances. Aside from Kieron Cindric (as the professional stripper Buddy) not being mic’d and sometimes being difficult to hear at the performance I attended, the overall aural presentation is solid, positioning Short North Stage to emerge as one of the best producers of musicals in the area.

 

Photo: Jerri Shafer
 
Standouts in the cast are David Bryant Johnson as Jerry, the dad trying to raise money for child support; Linda Kinnison Roth as crotchety rehearsal pianist Jeanette; Ian Short as the stuffy Harold; Patrick Walters as the rather dim-witted but boyishly handsome Ethan Girard; and Sean Felder as Malcolm, the suicidal mamma’s boy. Evin Hoffman is also perfectly cast as the villain Teddy, Jerry’s ex-wife’s fiancée; you can almost feel his smirk at Jerry’s activities as soon as he steps on stage. Sam Vestey deserves an honorable mention in his small role as Reg; his audition scene is so free of inhibition and honest that it emerges as one of the most touching scenes in the play, a scene usually played for comedy. 

The only criticism I have of this production is that the scene changes are often quite slow, idling the engine while the set rotates with some added business being performed on the far left and right of the stage. The show runs a good fifteen minutes longer than I’m used to, but perhaps some of this timing will be improved throughout the run. It didn’t bother Bianca when I mentioned it to her, and it certainly didn’t seem to affect anyone’s enjoyment of the show judging by the applause and chatter I heard at the conclusion.  The tender scene between Mr. Walters and Mr. Felder when they confront their budding attraction may also lack some chemistry, but Mr. Felder’s performance of “You Walk With Me” is a major highlight.

 

Photo: Jerri Shafer
 

The Full Monty: The Musical was rather unfairly overshadowed by the monster hit The Producers during its Broadway run, so I’m pleased to see that it has found a life in regional and local theatres across the country. For a play about stripping, unemployment, and child support, The Full Monty: The Musical is diverting rather than depressing, and its message of acceptance hasn’t dated like its references to VCRs and Sony Trinitron television sets. Short North Stage’s production is to date the best musical I’ve seen produced locally this year, and it serves to make me more excited to see what comes next from this company.

***/ out of ****

The Full Monty: The Musical continues through to April 24th in The Garden Theatre located at 1187 North High Street in Columbus, and more information can be found at http://www.shortnorthstage.org/calendar/v/469

The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical (The Human Race Theatre Company – Dayton, OH)

Nudity will always be a big selling point, and when it’s in a musical comedy the potential enjoyment factor is doubled (at least for me). For the opening show of its twenty-ninth season, Dayton’s The Human Race Theatre Company presents The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical, bringing some good old fashioned nudity to The Loft Theatre while also spreading a lot of joy and laughter at the same time.

 

Photo: Scott J. Kimmins – (left to right) Jamie Cordes, Matt Kopec, Richard E. Waits, Christopher deProphetis, Josh Kenney, and Matt Welsh
 
Based on the 1997 surprise hit film about a group of unemployed steel mill workers putting on a strip show to raise money for their families as well as raise their spirits, The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical premiered on Broadway in the fall of 2000 and ran for almost two years; it also had the misfortune of opening in the same season as Mel Brooks’s The Producers, which swept the Tony Awards for the 2000-2001 season. Theatre legend Terrence McNally adapted the screenplay for the stage, adeptly transplanting the action from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, with music and lyrics added by the criminally underrated David Yazbek, with “You Rule My World” and “You Walk With Me” the standouts from a consistently tuneful and appropriate score. While the play may have one too many manufactured obstacles at the end (I just don’t buy that Jerry, the guy behind the whole event in the first place, and faced with losing joint custody due to being behind in child support payments, would suddenly decide not to go on and then change his mind again five minutes later), The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical is very entertaining and, dare I say it, even moving in its depiction of men down on their luck banding together to prove to their families and themselves that they can rise above their current employment statuses and work together to accomplish a goal. 

 

Photo: Scott J. Kimmins – (left to right) Deb Colvin-Tener, Matt Welsh, Christopher deProphetis, Matt Kopec, Jamie Cordes, and Peanut Edmonson
 
There isn’t a bad egg in the entire cast, but special recognition should go to Christopher deProphetis as Jerry Lukowski, bringing swagger and likability to what can be an iffy character; Matt Welsh as cuddly Dave Bukatinsky, showing that handsome arrives in a variety of packages; Deb Colvin-Tener as Jeanette Burmeister, playing decades older than she is believably and with sass; Jamie Cordes as Harold Nichols, the unassuming silver fox/dance captain; Josh Kenney as lovably dim and gravity-challenged Ethan Girard; Matt Kopec as Malcolm MacGregor, whose performance of “You Walk With Me” is as close to definitive as one is likely to hear live; Richard E. Waits as Noah “Horse” T. Simmons, who explodes out of his clothes with verve in the finale, careful to hold back all that he was hiding until just the right moment; Jillian Jarrett as Jerry’s ex, Pam Lukowski, making sure that she’s not just a stereotypical bitch but a willing co-parent; and Richard Jarrett as Keno, the unbearably attractive and suave stripper who sets a physical standard that all men should be judged against (and probably found lacking) while also exuding a lot of charm.

 

Photo: Scott J. Kimmins – (left to right) Christopher deProphetis, Matt Kopec, and Matt Welch
 
Set designer Dick Block deserves a special award for the rotating set that has panels that open to represent locations as varied as a factory to a dance studio to a suburban home. The movement among the cast and crew is precise like clockwork as they work together to transform the set for each scene while the part of the set not facing the audience is redressed for the next change (kudos to director Joe Deer for making the show move so seemingly effortlessly). At one point the set turns about a hundred and twenty degrees, stops, and a hidden panel opens to reveal a door to the front of a character’s home – just ingenious, and a terrific use of the space.

 

Photo: Scott J. Kimmins – (left to right) Josh Kenney, Matt Kopec, Richard E. Waits, Matt Welsh, and Jamie Cordes
 
The only problem I had with this production was the sound; it was excellent except during the musical numbers, a big problem for a musical. Space constraints keep the orchestra from being visible, so they are backstage and their playing is amplified through the sound system. But that isn’t the problem – the issue is that the music is too loud and drowns out the vocal performances. There were several moments when the actors appeared to be straining to be louder only to be undone by the sound board engineer. The music also has a slightly muffled, compressed quality, with the high end all but missing with booming bass and no discernible separation between the instruments. I thought it was a prerecorded track at first because it just didn’t sound live at all, and I hope some adjustments are made in regards to the sound design for future performances.

 

Photo: Scott J. Kimmins – (left to right) Richard E. Waits, Matt Welsh, Christopher deProphetis, Peanut Edmonson, Matt Kopec, and Jamie Cordes
 
For a show about stripping with warnings of nudity and adult language on the advertising, The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical emerges as oddly sweet and sensitive, less about sex than about confidence and the importance of family. This production still has the ribald dialogue and requisite brief nudity (saved for the very end in this production), but it comes off as less raunchy than I remember, more PG13 than R. The material is strong enough to survive being tamed a bit, and perhaps some open minded parents may bring their teens to see it. There is so much good natured humor and talent on display here that it would be a shame for younger theatregoers (I’d say thirteen and up) to miss out because of content concerns; after all, they won’t hear or see anything salacious they probably haven’t been exposed to before, but they will get to see an entertaining live show that will surely keep their attention away from their mobile devices for a few hours while they think that they’re getting away with something.

***/ out of ****

The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical continues through to October 4th in The Loft Theatre at 126 North Main Street in downtown Dayton (about an hour outside Columbus), and more information can be found at http://humanracetheatre.org/1516/full-monty/index.php

Photo: Scott J. Kimmins – (left to right) Peanut Edmonson and Christopher deProphetis