Will They Go…
The Full Monty at Ivoryton Playhouse
By Amy J. Barry
The Full Monty is shaking up the Ivoryton Playhouse with its irreverent, potty-mouthed, boisterous boy fun and the promise of regular guys—some
you may even know—taking it all off.
The musical with book by Terrence McNally and score by David Yazbek is an adaptation of the popular 1997 British movie of the same name. It premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego before opening at Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre in 2000 where it ran for 770 performances.
In this Americanized version of the film, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers desperate to make some quick cash, decide to put on their own strip show after hearing their wives and girlfriends going gaga over a touring company of Chippendales at a local club.
Directed and choreographed at the Playhouse by Larry Nye, the central characters in the 19-person, 75 percent male cast are Jerry Lukowski (Barrett Hall) and his buddy Dave Bukatinsky (Bobby Schultz, Jr. of East Lyme) who both play their real-guy roles with conviction and good comic timing. Schultz’s standout voice does justice to Yazbeck’s robust, catchy tunes.
The idea of the strip show is Jerry’s brainchild. He’s divorced and afraid he’ll lose co-custody of his young son, Nathan—played naturally and appealingly by Deep River’s Carlin Morris—unless he pays the child support he owes his no-nonsense ex-wife Pam (Victoria M.E. Church), who’s about to marry the annoying corporate drone Teddy (Paul Falzone).
Jerry pulls the hefty Dave, who’s a hoot in the number “You Rule My World” (referring to his stomach) into the scheme. Dave’s lack of work and refusal to take a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart has left him feeling worthless, his libido languishing, and his feisty wife Georgie (MaryAnne Piccolo) utterly frustrated.
The fact that these are all average looking guys—short, tall, and overweight— is what makes the musical such a silly spoof, with the exception of Buddy, the buff Chippendale dancer, played by Steven Hosking, who seduces the audiences in the opening scene.
And yet it’s not all lighthearted fun. There is a dark, edgy underlying mood that conveys the tough spot in which these unemployed working class guys find themselves—feeling powerless, their manhood threatened, their roles as breadwinners diminished.
Among the ensemble, there are two terrific performances that must be mentioned: Mark F. Weekes as Horse, who energizes the production when he auditions for the strip show, breaking out into the unexpected and outrageous “Big Black Man”—and Judith Lenzi-Magoveny as Jeanette, the tough and witty show biz veteran throwing out understated yet hysterical zingers left and right.
It’s a long show (2 ½ hours including intermission) that drifts at times between the song and dance routines. But Nye’s finely-tuned choreography in such numbers as “Michael Jordan’s Ball,” in which the men translate basketball moves into dance steps, is the glue that holds it together— embellished by a marvelous six-piece orchestra, directed by John DeNicola.
Who knows? As unemployment figures keep escalating, maybe life will imitate art and we’ll be seeing our own neighbors in the reality version of this funny and touching production.
Oh, and no, I’m not going to give away the ending.
The Full Monty runs through July 26 at the Ivoryton Playhouse, l103 Main Street, Ivoryton. Tickets are available by calling the box-office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Be advised of adult themes and language.
This review was published in the Living section of Shore Publishing Community Newspapers on July 15-16, 2009.