"The Full Monty" opens the newly renovated Kweskin Theatre at Sterling Farms for Stamford's Curtain Call


By Tom Nissley

Hats off to the Board and staff persons of Curtain Call, and all the volunteers who helped push through the delayed construction schedule and snow days to reach the moment when the doors would fling open to reveal the sparkling new lobby entrance and bathrooms (and dressing rooms and much, much more) at the Kweskin Theatre. Lou Ursone and his team got the deadline to work, and the moment came, and suddenly a packed house welcomed "The Full Monty" to the long list of hits that have been performed in the Kweskin.

Curtain Call is a case study in the best possible approach to keeping a regional theatre company alive and at work in the community. Stamford and its environs are extremely fortunate to have this company, now thirty years old (and with a history that precedes it), going strong.

Case in point: a superb production, and a very talented one, of Terrence McNally and David Yazbek’s "The Full Monty." The musical play takes place in Buffalo, where a major steel mill has been shut down, and its former employees are in varieties of depression. When they realize that the women in town have been paying good money to see visiting Chip ‘n Dale strip shows, a few of them band together and decide to put on a strip show of their own. To make it competitive, they decide to go all the way in their stripping - showing "the full monty." Their physiques are a little lacking, and the dialogue renders them full of very human concerns. But with hard work they learn to dance enough to pull off their one night of glory as a smashing success.

McNally’s book is nice and tight, and there are a number of touching moments in the script, which rotates around the identity crises of unemployment, gender malarky, and fragile self-image. The relationships that are tested and resolved include Jerry (Eli Newsom), divorced, behind in child support, an awkward but loving parent to his son Nathan (Sean Ormond), and still very connected to Nathan’s mom, Pam (Jacqueline MacLean) . Jerry’s best do-everything-together friend, Dave (Bill Warncke), is a compulsive eater who has stopped feeling OK with love-making to his wife, Georgie (Melinda Zupaniotis). Malcolm (Richard Cummings) is a loner who tries suicide to retreat from his way-over-demanding mother (Laura Naramore). Ethan (Jim Nassef) finds Malcolm attractive, and a gentle bond develops between them in beautifully directed sequences. Harold (Kevin Pelkey) is afraid to tell his luxury-loving wife, Vicki (Jenifer Conon), that he’s unemployed. Horse (Kevin Thompson), who is black, brings his own special experience to the team - Thompson is a superb dancer, and Estelle (Molly Garbe) turns up to coach and play the music. Every single one of these actors is richly talented, and with Douglas Shankman’s exquisite direction they have melded into a production that really works big time and beautifully. Don’t hold back. You’ll be immensely impressed and happy when you choose to see this show.

Shankman teaches dance in New Canaan, at the Performing Arts Conservatory, and has been the choreographer for The Summer Theatre of New Canaan productions of Camelot, The Music Man, and Peter Pan. He also orchestrated the dance sequences in "The King and I" at Curtain Call last summer. I expect, however, that from now on he’ll be best known for pulling together "The Full Monty" with outrageous style and grace.

Other credits go to Music Director Stephanie Gaumer, for beautiful and sensitive work, and to Peter Barbieri, Jr., for the intricate and outstanding set design, and Solveig Pflueger, for perfect costume work, including those little red strings.

"The Full Monty" runs weekends through February 28. You can find information about times and tickets at www.curtaincallinc.com

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre  February 13, 2010

Tom Nissley is a well-known realtor in New Canaan, and a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. He has reviewed plays and music events that expand the quality of life in Connecticut for 25 years, and he's also available, of course, to consult with you about real estate.


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