Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Full Monty"

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entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

"The Full Monty"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Turtle Lane Playhouse's current show is the smash musical hit, "The Full Monty". With a book by Tony Award winner Terrence McNally ( "Ragtime" and "Kiss of the Spiderwoman") and music and lyrics by pop composer David Yazbek ( "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"), "The Full Monty" is based on the record-breaking 1997 Academy Award nominated hit film by the same name. McNally changes the locale from England to Buffalo, NY in the stage show. It is the raucous, heartfelt story of six unemployed steelworkers who go to great lengths to make some cash to help out a friend who might lose 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 J. Scott Brumit casts his 19 member cast perfectly in this high energy show that doesn't let up from start to finish. From the musical direction of Wayne Ward to the inventive choreography of Donald Ray Gregorio the show sparkles and shines in a script full of comic and poignant moments played out by a splendid cast, winning over the audience with their enthusiastic portrayals. It earns them a well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show, ensuring its success at selling out the entire run.

Scott makes the mixture of the comedy and pathos standout in this show with his great blocking and direction. His choices of the six men follows what the author, McNally says about the show, "it's about an image-obsessed society that says you have to look like Brad Pitt and this show says the opposite, it celebrates everybody for exactly who they are." Wayne makes this jazzy pop score soar with his orchestra and the cast. Show stopping numbers include "Big Black Man", "Life With Harold" and "Jeanette's Showbiz Number" as well as the final "Full Monty" strip number called "Let It Go" where the six men really let it go, showing their wares to the screaming, applauding wild audience. Donald's modern dance numbers include the longer version of the "Full Monty" striptease finale as well as the Cha Cha in "Life with Harold", the athletic basketball type dance in "Michael Jordan's Ball" and the many soul dances in "Big Black Man". The women's dance numbers include "It's a Woman's World" where they sing and dance in the men's bathroom and "The Good's" where they check out the men's assets in a degrading way like men do to women. (Excellent harmony by the men in this number and in the opening song called "Scrap".)

James Casey is dynamite as Jerry Lukowski, the male lead in this show. His fantastic rock tenor voice soars off the charts whether he is singing "Man" where Jerry proclaims he is a man's man with the Marlboro theme in the song or in the tender ballad, "Breeze Off the River" which he sings to his son, showing off a mellower side to his voice. His acting shines through in many comic moments as the bossy bad boy but he also shows a softer side with his son. It is Jerry's son who finally gets him to grow up by giving a kick in the ass to see something through to its conclusion for the first time in his life, turning him into the great father that he should be. James Tallach is excellent as Jerry's best friend, the overweight Dave Bukatinsky. His strong acting ability comes through as the underdog who the audience roots for. James' great voice is heard with James Casey's in "Man" and in the comic "Big-Ass Rock" which is a suicide song on the many different ways to kill yourself. He also sings a gorgeous duet about his wife called "You Rule My World". Although James is very funny, the confrontation scene with Jerry shows his dramatic side when he finally stands up to Jerry's calling him a "fat bastard". James Fitzpatrick plays Malcolm, the mama's boy who tries to kill himself by leaving his car running while he is still inside it. His klutzy moves as the awkward Malcolm as he tries to fit in with the other guys are funny but he delivers the goods with his strong tenor voice in the group songs and especially in "You Walk with Me" a poignant duet at his mother's funeral, sung with Ethan Girard, who becomes his male lover. Ethan is played by Rob Klimeczko who is originally from Buffalo in real life. He plays an airhead who claims he can't sing or dance but drops his pants to show off his goods to the guys so they will cast in him in their dance troupe. He also tries to imitate Donald O'Connor by continually running into walls, knocking himself unconcious. However Rob has a fantastic baritone voice and is an excellent dancer in reality, showing off his voice in group songs and in the tender duet with James Fitzpatrick. Ethan and Malcolm connect with one another with their mutual interest in "Sound of Music" movie and wearing the same underwear and finally fall for each other after they almost get arrested while wearing their red G-strings. (Rob recently married Carrie who plays the dimwitted, slutty, Estelle Genovese in this show. They met while doing "Oklahoma" at Turtle Lane and she originally comes from Ohio. Her funniest moment in the show is when she pees in the men's urinal during "It's A Woman's World".) Steven Key is a hoot as Horse who stops the show with his "Big Black Man" number while doing the jerk, the monkey and other crazy dance steps with his bum hip. Steven plays a much older curmudgeon in the show and steals many scenes he is in. Another scene stealer is JoAnne Powers as Jeannette who plays the piano, trying to get the guys into shape for their stripping debut. She has the best one liners in the show and makes everyone of them hit paydirt. JoAnne's show stopping song with the lyrics "Things Could Be Better Round Here" is hilarious and her tough talking broad is, too.

Peter Adams plays Harold, who's wife, Vicki is a dance teacher. He becomes a member of their troupe while teaching them how to dance and trying to hide the fact he lost his job from his wife. Peter shows off his dynamic tenor voice in the gorgeous "You Rule My World" and plays the pompous ass role very well. Tracy Nygard is a very hot tamale in "Life with Harold" as she struts her stuff doing a Cha cha and shows her tender, loving side in "You Rule My World" reprise with Katie Ford who plays Dave's wife, Georgie who runs the professional strip club. Katie handles the transition from upbeat, fun loving wife to a more caring, understanding one by the end of the show. Catherine Lee plays Jerry's hard as nails ex-wife, Pam who demands he get a job to pay child support.The youngest member of the cast is Ed McAuliffe who plays Jerry's son. He is protective of his dad and finally gets him to grow up and get his ass on the stage with the other guys. Robert Case plays the Chippendale stripper, Keno who all the woman drool over. He has a funny scene with Jerry and Dave in the bathroom, belting Jerry in the mouth. So for an energetic, raucous musical treat be sure to catch "The Full Monty" at Turtle Lane, before all the show gets sold out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"The Full Monty" (3 February - 12 March)
283 Melrose Street, NEWTON MA
1 (617) 244-0169

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide