Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Full Monty"

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"The Full Monty"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Encore Rep Theatre is the 2000 smash musical hit 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 Woman0 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 Fred Fortier casts this show beautifully while Jeff Kimball as musical brings out the best in his vocalists and orchestra as does choreographer, Kathleen Fortier with high energy dances and inventive choreography. Throw in wonderful costumes by Lauren Schmidt and topnotch set design by Fred and you have the ingredients of comic and poignant moments to create a fantastic musical treat for the audience.

Fred'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 shines through in obtaining the audience's tears in the touching moments. This ingredient gives the script the hidden strength it needs. Jeff makes this jazzy pop score soar with his 6 orchestra while playing lead keyboards. They sound fabulous and he makes the harmonies soar in the numbers.Some of the numbers sound like Sondheim while the gorgeous ballads are like Gershwin. I last reviewed Jeff's music direction in "The Producers" and "Rent" and he always does a topnotch job. Kathy's choreography provides the finishing touches to the show. She returns to the stage after giving birth to a beautiful baby boy. The male dance numbers range from striptease in "Let It Go'' to athletic basketball type training in "Michael Jordan's Ball" to a Latin dance, Cha cha in "Life with Harold" to 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 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", "Life with Harold", ''Jeanette's Showbiz Number " and the final "Full Monty" strip in "Let it Go". The lighting design is by while stage manager Joe Medeiros keeps things running smoothly all night long.

The terrific male lead of this show is Brian Lopes as Jerry Lukowski whose high tenor voice soars off the charts. Brian leads the men in the Sondeimesque song "Scrap" at the Union meeting where the men feel worthless having lost their jobs. He shows off his rock voice in the song "Man" where he says that he is a man's man which has the Marlboro theme in it. However Brian shows the tender side of Jerry when he deals with the agony of possibly losing joint custody of his son. His emotion packed ballad about his son called "Breeze Off the River" moves the audience to tears with its poignancy. Brian also portrays Jerry's tough side when he is with the guys, displaying thuggish behavior. He also gets them to dance in "Michael Jordan's Ball" at the end of the first act. Finally Jerry becomes a great father when his son gives him a kick in the ass to grow up and he finally sees something through from start to finish for the first time in his life.

Mike Cyr plays Jerry's best friend, the overweight, Dave Bukatinsky. He shows off his tenor voice with Brian in "Man", in "Big Ass Rock" which is a very hilarious song about different ways to commit suicide with Aidan as Malcolm singing "I've Got a Friend" section. Mike also sings a gorgeous duet about his wife called "You Rule My World". He has wonderful comic timing as the underdog the crowd roots for especially when he holds up a tiny g-string, when he smokes as he and Jerry jog and when he wraps himself in saran wrap in the bathroom. Jerry's ex-wife, Pam is played beautifully by Ashley Dougan, a pretty red head, 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. Ashley's belting voice can be heard in "The Goods". She is a very dynamic actress and this is one more feather in her cap. Dave's wife, Georgie, is played by Kathy Fortier. She gets to show off her strong voice in "It's Woman's World", "The Goods" and in the gorgeous ballad "You Rule My World" which tugs at your heartstrings. Kathy delivers pathos in spades with her heartfelt performance. Jerry and Pam's son, Nathan is beautifully played by Nathan Medeiros who is only 13 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 wins many laughs. Nathan's projection and line delivery is right on the money, too.

Aidan Horrigan is marvelous as Malcolm, this socially inept, mama's boy who tries to kill himself by leaving his car running while he's still in it. His klutzy moves as the awkward Malcolm as he tries to fit in with the other guys, is hilarious and he delivers his songs with a strong tenor voice. Aidan's voice is heard in the group numbers but it especially shines in the gut wrenching "You Walk with Me'', a poignant duet at his mother's funeral, sung with Ethan Girard, who becomes his male lover. He delivers a heart rending performance in this role. Another topnotch performance is by Jose Bonilla as Ethan. He plays an air-head who claims he can't sing or dance but drops his pants to show off his goods to the guys so they will cast him in their dance troupe. As Ethan, he tries to imitate Donald O'Connor in "Singing in the Rain" by continually running into walls, knocking himself unconscious. However Jose is a topnotch singer and dancer in real life and displays his strong voice in the group numbers and especially in "You Walk with Me" duet with Aidan. They also have comic bits about loving "The Sound of Music" movie and finally falling in love with other while in their underwear.Jarvis Smith 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 powerhouse baritone voice fills the theater and his comic one liner win many laughs as this loveable curmudgeon.

Michael Harrison 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. Michael delivers the goods as the bossy character and shows off his voice in "You Rule My World" duet with Mike. He is a marvelous actor who can play a variety of roles. Meaghan Bruneault, a beautiful blonde plays Vicki. She shows off her dancing prowess and her amazing voice in "Life With Harold", a Latin-salsa type song as well as the reprise of "You Rule My World" which elicits many tears. The show starts off with a bang when Keno, the Chippendale type professional dancer enters the stage. He is played by Ryan Hanley who shows his dancing prowess and delivery of comic line. Ryan isn't afraid to strut his stuff in a G-string. He has a funny scene with Jerry and Dave in the bathroom where he belts Jerry in the mouth. Sally McAllister is very funny as Jeanette. She has many caustic barbs and funny one-liners including that as a man "If you want to be in show business you should be spade first". Jeanette is the pianist who tries to help the guys get into dancing shape. Sally's song at the start of the second act is "Jeanette's Showbiz Number" singing things could be better around here which leaves the audience in stitches. She mentions that Arthur Godfrey tried to put the moves on her many years ago and she drops several famous names including Lawrence Welk and Eddie Fisher. Sally gets glammed up for the final strip show as she announces it in the final scene. Another funny bit is Amanda Palmer as Estelle, peeing in the urinal in the men's bathroom. What a hoot! So for a marvelous and entertaining show, be sure to catch "The Full Monty" by Encore Rep at the Stadium Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you.

"The Full Monty" (4 - 6 May)
@ Stadium Theatre, Monument Square, WOONSOCKET RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide