By Tony Schillaci & Don Church

The savvy “Full Monty” audience knew and reacted with spontaneous laughter as Ivoryton Playhouse’s Executive and Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard asked “Will they, or won’t they?” prior to the first act of this earthy hit musical, and added, “Here’s your chance to find out!” 

After the witty and charming introduction by Ms. Hubbard, the six-piece orchestra played a short overture and the show with book by Terrence McNally and score by David Yazbek took off with  a raucous testosterone-heavy opening with Jerry (Barrett Hall) leading the guys in the show-defining song “Scrap.”

Next, the female cast brought down the house strutting their ample stuff and singing full out in “It’s A Woman’s World.” Their superb voices are led by Mary Anne Piccolo as Georgie Bukatinsky who sets the pace for the show.

A highlight of “The Full Monty” is the performance of Mark F. Weekes (‘Horse’ T. Simmons) doing the wildly funny and suggestive “Big Black Man.”  Mark is a magnificent ‘song and dance man’ who gets the best out of every moment on stage. The audience showered him with thunderous applause and laughter from his first entrance to his curtain call. 

Other performances that stand out include Southern Connecticut State University-graduate Robert W Schultz, Jr. as Dave Butakinsky, the loveable fat-funny guy with a beautiful voice and perfect comedic timing. Justin Boudreau (Ethan Girard) of Meriden has star presence and breath-taking talent that was amply rewarded with real belly laughs and applause. Justin literally bounces off the walls, an homage to Donald O’Connor in “Singing in the Rain,” and also reveals a “hidden” talent.  These are two of the broadest and funniest pieces of physical comedy we’ve seen in years! 

Another SCSU graduate is Victoria Church as Jerry’s ex-wife Pam, whose beautiful voice is only heard in one number. We’d have liked to have heard more!  Ms. Church is from a family noted for its fine annual Connecticut Gilbert & Sullivan Society performances. (They are not related to this writer.) 

These truly gifted Connecticut actors hold their own with the outstanding Actors Equity Members in the cast, including Jackie Sidle as Vicki Nichols.  When Jackie is doing “Life with Harold” and other turns, you know you’re seeing Broadway personified.  

Another two outstanding songs are the six guys doing the double-entendre “The Goods” which gets the audience screaming with pleasure – with a little help - to great effect - from some cast members scattered throughout the house, and the hysterically funny finale, including the best song in the show, “Let It Go.”  

Part of the libretto deals with the relationship between Jerry and his son Nathan (Colin Morris).  Terrence McNally’s book slows the pace of the show considerably in these scenes, and the songs are thin and syrupy-sentimental.  But the ensemble pieces are pure brassy and sassy and tend to make up for the banal soap-opera moments.  “You Walk With Me” short changes the wonderful voice of John T. Lynes (Malcolm) in a duet with Justin Boudreau’s Ethan.  Both of these gifted actors deserved a better song in the real and tender scene.  

The show was directed and choreographed by Larry Nye.  The dance arrangements were perfect for the story, but stronger and more imaginative direction could improve some of the blocking. For instance, by having Jerry precede Dave in a hasty exit scene: the latter has the only line in that piece of business and lost the laugh that could have been. 

Nye also allowed long blackouts while the crew, in front of our eyes, dressed the stage between scenes. After darkening center stage, he could have the done the next scene to the left or right end of the stage; it had already been expanded to the exterior walls of the theater.  This space was effectively used that way in Ivoryton’s recent “Marilyn: Forever Blonde.”

The set (Cully Long), lighting (Tate Burmeister) and costume (Vivianne Lamb) designers’ work successfully enhanced the production with major contributions by these essential crafts. 
John Sebastian DeNicola’s musical direction was consistently spot-on from the overture to the finale.

Still wondering about Jacqui Hubbard’s question, “will they, or won’t they”?  The only way to find out is get tickets as soon as possible.  You’ll have lots of fun before getting to the answer –and we don’t think anyone will be disappointed with the result!  

The Full Monty” plays through July 26, 2009. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p. m. Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p. m.  Friday and Saturday at 8 p. m. Tickets are: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $20 students. Group rates and season tickets are available. Box-office: 860-767-7318 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

The Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT.  Parking across the street is $5 and limited, nearby town spaces are free.

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