The closing show of Theatre by the Sea's 77th Season is the smash musical hit from 2000, "The Full Monty" which is based on the 1997 Oscar-nominated film. With a book by Tony Award winner Terrance McNally ("Ragtime" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman") and music and lyrics by pop composer David Yazbek ("Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"), the show changes locale from England in the movie to Buffalo, NY and is the raucous, heartfelt story of six unemployed steelworkers who go to great lengths to make some cash and help out a friend in trouble who might lose joint custody of his son. When a local male strip show, whose dancers venture down to G-strings, is a hit with the local women, the cash-strapped factory workers figure they can really cash in if they go "the full Monty." The buddies, desperate for self-respect, must overcome their fears, their nerves, and their clothes for a shot at success. Director Russell Garrett casts this show beautifully while Andrew Smithson as musical director brings out the best in his vocalists and orchestra as does choreographer Chris Saunders with his high energy dances in his inventive choreography. Throw in wonderful, colorful costumes by Marcia Zammarelli and topnotch intricate set design by Peter Barbieri Jr. and scenic artist Kathryne Hecht and you have the ingredients of comic and poignant moments to create a sensational musical treat for their very appreciative audience who reward them with a standing ovation.
Theatre by the Sea owner and producer Bill Hanney, Producing Artistic Director, Amiee Turner and Managing Producer Joel Kipper hire topnotch technical folks for the set and costumes to make this show sparkle. Russell's wonderful blocking and keen eye for comedy keeps the show fast paced. There are many comic moments in the show which are hilarious but his prowess is in obtaining the crowd's tears in the poignant moments that give this script the hidden strength it needs. Russell is not only a superb director, having reviewed him many times at Foothill Theatre in Worcester, MA, starting with "The Rocky Horror Show" in 2006 but is also an excellent actor, vocalist and choreographer, too. Andrew makes this jazzy pop score soar with his orchestra as he plays the lead keyboards with some of the numbers sounding like Sondheim and gorgeous ballads like Gershwin. Chris' dance numbers range from striptease in "Let It Go" to athletic basketball type training in "Michael Jordan's Ball" to a Latin dance in "Life with Harold" to the soul dance in "Big Black Man" while the women's dances include "It's a Woman's World" where they use the men's bathroom with Rachel Lomax as Estelle, a blonde bimbo peeing in the urinal which is a hoot and "The Goods" where they check out the men's assets while making disparaging comments on their goods. Show stopping numbers include "Big Ass Rock", "Big Black Man" and the final "Full Monty" strip in "Let It Go".
The excellent male lead of this show is Scott Guthrie as Jerry Lukowski who's high tenor voice soars off the charts. Jerry leads the men in the Sondheimesque song "Scrap" at the Union meeting where they feel worthless having lost their jobs and says that he is a man's man in the song "Man" with the Marlboro theme as part of the song which shows off his rock voice. However Scott shows the tender side of his character when he deals with the agony of possibly losing joint custody of his son. Scott's moving ballad about his son call "Breeze Off the River" moves the audience to tears with its poignancy. He also portrays Jerry's tougher side with the guys with his thuggish behavior and gets them to dance in "Michael Jordan's Ball" at the end of the first act. But it is through his son who finally gives him a kick in the ass to grow up and become a great father when he finally sees something through from start to finish for the first time in his life. Jean-Pierre Ferragamo plays Jerry's best friend, the overweight Dave Bukatinsky. He shows off his tenor voice in this role with Scott in "Man", in "Big Ass Rock" which is a hilarious song about different ways to commit suicide with Joel singing "I've Got a Friend"section as well as the gorgeous duet about his wife called "You Rule My World". He has great comic timing in the role of the underdog who the crowd roots for winning many laughs when he holds up a yellow g-string, when he smokes as he and Jerry jog and when he wraps himself in saran wrap in the bathroom. I reviewed Jean-Pierre three years ago when he played Pseudolos in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and he just finished playing Edna Turnblad in "Hairspray". Jerry's ex-wife Pam is played beautifully by Heidi Beckmann, a pretty brunette, who adds depth to the character by not making her a one-note bitch. Her empathy for Jerry's plight can be seen as she gives him the tough love stance during the show. Heidi's belting voice can be heard in "The Goods". Dave's wife, Georgie, is played by sexy blonde, Libby Tatum. She gets to show off her strong voice in "It's a Woman's World", "The Goods" and in the gorgeous ballad "You Rule My World" which tugs at your heart strings. She delivers pathos in spades with her heartfelt performance. Jerry and Pam's son, is wonderfully played by Ryan Costa who is only 11 years old. This boy captures the character's spirit and wiseness beyond his years while urging his father to grow up at last uttering "Get out there you fuck" which obtained much laughter. Ryan's projection and stage delivery is right on the money. Andrew Horowitz plays the role at alternating performances.
Another topnotch performance is given by Tyler Fish as the good looking, air-head, Ethan Girard. Ethan proclaims he can't sing or dance but drops his pants to show off the goods the ladies want to see and is hired on the spot. Ethan continually tries to run up the walls, trying to imitate Donald O'Connor in "Singing in the Rain", which always leaves him unconscious on the floor. However Tyler is a wonderful singer and dancer in real life and gets to show off his strong tenor voice in the group numbers and especially in the tear jerking ballad "You Walk With Me" a duet with Joel Kipper who plays Malcolm. Joel who is the managing producer, returns to the TBTS stage as an actor, having played the leading role of George M. Cohan two years ago in "George M". He does a fantastic job as this socially inept, mama's boy who tries to kill himself by leaving his car running with him in it. Joel's first entrance is gangbusters as enters in a real car onstage and he makes this nerd-like character come to life. He would have made a dynamite Seymour in "Little Shop", too. He is hilarious as this klutzy guy who tries to fit in with the others but also show the pathos of that the character feels in "You Walk with Me" showing off his fabulous voice. Joel delivers an awesome heart rending performance which makes you shed a lot of tears in the funeral sequence. Tyler and Joel also have a funny bit about loving "The Sound of Music" movie. Richard Waits is a hoot as Horse who stops the show with "Big Black Man" while doing the jerk, the monkey, the mashed potato and other crazy dances with his bum hip. His powerful baritone voice fills the theater and his comic one liners produce much laughter from the audience as he portrays this loveable, curmudgeon. Jason Loete plays Harold whose wife, Vicki is a dance teacher. He becomes a member of their troupe trying to teach them how to dance while trying to hide the fact that he lost his job from his wife. Jason shows off his wonderful tenor voice in "You Rule My World" duet with Jean Pierre while Erin Romero, a beautiful statuesque blonde who is engaged to Tyler Fish, plays Vicki, showing off her dancing prowess and her awesome soprano voice in "Life With Harold", a Latin-salsa type song as well as in the reprise of "You Rule My World" which elicits many tears. The show starts off with a bang when the Chippendale's type professional dancer enters the stage. He is played by Taavon Gamble who stands out with his dancing prowess and delivery of his comic lines. He is a topnotch dancer and isn't afraid to strut his stuff in a G-string. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Ellen Karsten as Jeanette who wears a gray wig looks like Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo from Golden Girls. She always has a cigarette dangling out of her mouth and is the pianist who tries to help the guys get into dancing shape. has many of the funniest one-liners in this show including "If you want to be in show business you should be spade first which stopped the show with laughter. she makes everyone of them count. She stops this show at the beginning of the second act with her "Jeanette's Showbiz Number" singing things could be better around here which leaves the audience in stitches. She mentions Arthur Godfrey tried to put the moves on her years ago and drops several famous names during the show including Lawrence Welk and Eddie Fisher. Ellen gets glammed up for the strip show, wears a red wig as she announces the strip show in the final scene. Press night isn't complete without the delicious and plentiful buffet prepared by Duane Crowe and his lovely wife, Carleen at the Bistro by the Sea. This time the scrumptious food consisted of eggplant,pasta, salad, garlic bread and carrot cake which disappeared quickly. Next year's line up of shows looks enticing-"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", "Man of La Mancha", "Hairspray" and "The Drowsy Chaperone". So for an outstanding show, which is the must see show of the summer, be sure to catch "The Full Monty" at TBTS.