Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Full Monty"

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note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth

"The Full Monty"

Reviewed by Sheila Barth

I’ve seen Terrence McNally’s award-winning musical, “The Full Monty,” and the 1997 award-winning, internationally popular British movie several times.

Although the 2000 stage adaptation was Americanized, set in industrial Buffalo instead of Sheffield, England, it closely follows the movie, focusing on six unemployed steel workers who decide to make a one-night financial killing by stripping, a‘ la the professional Chippendales. Last minute, they decide to go one step further - to bare all -the full monty.

These guys aren’t exactly poster boys for GQ, but they’re real men, they rationalize. What woman wouldn’t pay to see real guys go the distance?

Apparently, mature audiences everywhere would. They’ve happily enjoyed this musical comedy for the past 12 years, and it’s still going strong, especially at Stoneham Theatre, featuring a delightful cast of 17, directed by Caitlin Lowans, and a full-sounding, eight-piece band, led by pianist extraordinaire, Jim Rice.

What a menagerie the guys are: plant manager Harold Nichols, (well acted by audience favorite Steve Gagliastro), whose wife Vickie enjoys the finer things in life; divorced high school hero, Jerry Lukowski, (Michael Timothy Howell) 32, who will lose his 10-year-old son, Nathan,(Colin Breslin) if he doesn’t pay his back and current child support; and heavyset Dave Bukatinsky (Corey Jackson), who loves his wife, Georgie, but his self-worth and libido are at an all-time low.

There’s also empty-headed Ethan Girard, (Andrew Oberstein), who repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempts to walk on walls, but is amply endowed; suicidal, friendless, mama’s boy, Malcolm,(Nick Sulfaro), luckily retained his job at the plant as a nighttime security guard; and elderly, arthritic Horse, (nicely portrayed by Davild L. Jiles Jr.), surprisingly has all the right moves.

Christopher Ostrom’s set doesn’t change, but his lighting achieves the ideal balance between dramatic and comedic effect, while Gail Astrid Buckley’s costumes convert these hapless schmoes into sexy swans.

When Jerry and Dave witness the frenzy handsome Chippendale dancer Buddy “Keno” Walsh (David Costa) creates on Girls’ Night Out at the club, they note he’s gay and narcissistic. They may not have the looks, talent or know-how, but they’re desperate enough to try stripping for one night, especially since their ladies are shelling out $50 per ticket and tips.

In the opening number, after the guys lament they’re just “Scrap,” their wives go wild on ladies’ night in “It’s a Woman’s World,” cheering and shouting, while watching stripper Keno. Hunky David Costa strips, gyrates, bumps, grinds and shimmies out of his business suit, valise and glasses, to a revealing thong, that’s worth the price of admission alone. As Keno, (and in other small supporting roles here), Costa is the guys’ eye candy foil.

The overall cast is enjoyable, especially when the ensemble revs up the audience nearby or sparks emotion on stage. Nick Sulfaro as sad, lonely Malcolm MacGregor is a heart-stealer. He’s pathetically befuddled during his suicide scene, which turns comical when Dave and Jerry find him in his carbon monoxide-filled car. As new friends, they offer alternative methods of suicide in “Bad Ass Rock”. Jackson as Dave lends a bittersweet sadness, while Howell as optimistic Jerry hits several highs with his falsetto.

Margaret Ann Brady as Jeannette Burmeister, the guys’ self-appointed, multi-divorced, show biz adviser-accompanist, provides lots of wise-cracking comic relief. She’s also effective as Malcolm’s sick, elderly, guilt-imposing mother, Molly. Andrew. Oberstein as Ethan tries too often and ineffectively to scale walls, but in hand-holding duets with Sulfaro, they’re charming. And Amy Barker as Harold’s wife, Vicki, and Danielle Perry as Dave’s wife, Georgie, lend heartfelt encouragement and harmony in their duet, “You Rule My World”.

Choreographer-actress Ilyse Robbins as Jerry’s ex-wife, Pam, nicely represents stability and maturity, a sharp contrast to Jerry’s floozy, occasional girlfriend Estelle (Michele A. DeLuca)

. When the ladies chant and sing, “Let it Go,” the audience is on its feet, cheering along, letting the guys know they’ve definitely got “The Goods”.

"The Full Monty" (12 April - 6 May)
395 Main Street, STONEHAM MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide