Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Full Monty"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


"The Full Monty"

A Review by Tony Annicone

Wellesley Players 91st season's winter show is "The Full Monty", the smash musical hit. With a book by Tony Award winner Terrence McNally and with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, "The Full Monty" is based on the 1997 Academy Award nominated film by the same name. McNally changes the locale from England to Buffalo, NY for this stage show. It is the raucous, heartfelt story of six unemployed steel workers who go to great lengths to make money to help a friend in danger of losing joint custody of his young son. When a local male strip show, whose dancers venture down to G-strings, is a hit with the local ladies, 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 Richard Repetta cast these roles wonderfully, creating a high energy musical treat to cheer you up in the middle of this cold winter season. He combines the comic and poignant scenes together splendidly, too.

Musical director Shawn Gelzleichter makes this jazzy pop score soar with his 12 piece orchestra and vocalists. Show stopping numbers include "Big Black Man" and "Jeanette's Show Business Number" as well as the final "Full Monty" strip in "Let It Go" with the men's choral vocals excelling in this raucous number. Choreographer P.J. Terranova's dances range from the striptease in "Let It Go" to athletic basketball type in "Michael Jordan's Ball" to a Latin dance in "Life With Harold" to the soul dance in "Big Black Man" as well as the women's dances in "It's a Woman's World" where they use the men's bathroom and in "The Goods" where they check the men's equipment out.  Meghan Edge steals many a scene as the blonde bimbo, Estelle who pees in the men's urinal with hilarious results. The dynamic male lead of this show is Stephen Wrobleski as Jerry Lukowski. Jerry is a man's man as he explains in the song with the Marlboro theme called "Man" which displays Stephen's tenor rock voice. However he shows his tender side when he deals with his son, Nathan, not in his language but in the fact that he doesn't want to relinquish joint custody of the boy. Stephen's poignant ballad about Nathan called "Breeze Off the River'' displays his mellower tones moving the audience to tears. He sounds like John Denver in this number. His acting shines through in his thuggish behavior with the other guys. But it takes his son to force him to see something through for the first time in his life that Jerry finally grows up and becomes a good father at last.

Gordon Bedford does an excellent job as Jerry's overweight best friend, Dave Bukatinsky. He displays his strong acting ability as the underdog who the crowd roots for. Gordon's dynamite voice is heard in "Man" with Stephen, in "Big Ass Rock" which is a comic suicide stopping song about different ways to kill yourself and in "You Rule My World", a gorgeous duet about his wife. Dave Levy does a marvelous job as the air head, Ethan Girard. Ethan keeps saying that he can't sing or dance but drops his pants to show the goods that the ladies want. He also continually runs into walls trying to imitate Donald O'Connor and keeps knocking himself unconscious. However Dave is a wonderful singer and dancer and displays his  voice in the group numbers and especially in "You Walk With Me" with Todd Sandstrom. Todd is fantastic as Malcolm, the mama's boy who tries to kill himself in the first act by leaving his car running with him in it and in this gut wrenching duet with Dave, stops the show with its power and poignancy. He is very humorous as the klutzy guy who tries to fit in with the others. Anthony Pires is a hoot as Horse who stops the show with his "Big Black Man" number while doing the jerk, the monkey and other crazy dances with his bum hip. His strong baritone voice rocks the theater and his comic curmudgeon steals many a scene. Another scene stealer is Amy DeMarco as Jeanette, the pianist who tries to get the guys into stripping shape with her music. She has some of the funniest one liners in the show and makes them hit pay dirt all night long. Her show stopping number is "Things Could Be Better Round Here" as she struts her stuff to a very appreciative audience.

Doug Hartley plays Harold whose wife, Vicki is a dance teacher. He becomes a member of their troupe trying to teach them to dance while trying to hide he lost his job from his wife. Doug displays his voice the duet "You Rule My World" with Gordon. Jenn Bubriski plays Vicki who dances up a storm in her solo "Life With Harold" and displays her voice in the emotion packed "You Rule My World" reprise with Jill Braverman who plays Dave's wife, Georgie. Jenn is fabulous in this role. Georgie runs the professional strip club. Jill handles the transition from funny, upbeat wife to caring and accepting wife by the close of the show as does Jenn in her role, too. I first reviewed Jill back in 2000 at Theatre by the Sea in Matunuck, RI and she hasn't changed one bit since then! Olivia Rizzo plays Pam, the hard as nails ex-wife of Jerry. She demands he must get a job to pay child support. The youngest member of the cast is Connor Upton who plays Nathan. He does a wonderful job as this young boy who is more mature and wise than his father. Playing the professional stripper Reno is Jarred O'Brien who opens the show with a stunning striptease. So for a marvelous musical entertainment to celebrate the 91st season of Wellesley Players be sure to catch "The Full Monty" for a rollicking good time in the middle of this frigid winter season. Tell them Tony sent you.

THE FULL MONTY (26 February to 6 March)
Wellesley Players, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA
(781)269-9765 or www.wellesleyplayers.org ;


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