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A CurtainUp Review
The Full Monty


Jason Danieley, Patrick Wilson, Romain Fruge and
Andre de Shields (Photo: Craig Schwartz )
The unemployed Yorkshire steelworkers of the 1997 surprise super hit movie The Full Monty have made a most successful move to Buffalo, NY. On its way from screen to stage The Full Monty has also grown from ninety minutes to two and a half hours but this is not a case of blowing up a tiny bubble into a giant balloon but a needed stretch to accommodate thirteen musical numbers and a couple of new characters. Most importantly, the film's sextet of unlikely strippers remain as endearing a group of macho men you're likely to meet anywhere.

Unlike some of the recent sorry examples of screen-to-stage adaptations this one could be used as a textbook example of how to get such adaptations right. Director Jack O'Brien doesn't allow this musicalized version of the film to drag for even a minute. Terrence McNally's book, David Yazbek's peppy rock score, Jerry Mitchell's snappy choreography and, most of all, the bang-up cast (individually and as a tight-knit ensemble) truly deliver the full monty. I'm not just talking about the promised full-frontal bare-all finale ( delivered -- but thanks to lighting wizard Howell Binkley without shocking even a visiting auntie from Ft. Wayne). In terms of the title's broader meaning , to go all the way in any endeavor, everyone involved with this musical has indeed gone all the way to give the audience a show that's fun -- make that FUN. .

The Full Monty is not a new My Fair Lady or Cabaret but neither is it a sung-through, dark popera with little or no dancing. It vibrates with catchy songs and dances. Its characters are likeable and I defy all but the most ingrained curmudgeons not to enjoy watching this show's six losers become winners in the self-esteem game.

Terrence McNally, who did a virtuoso job of musicalizing E. L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime, has astutely managed to strengthen the main character's growth and change - (Patrick Wilson, at last finding in Jerry Lukowski, a role worthy of his talents -- without straying from the original Monty filmscript. Towards this end McNally has introduced a "real" stripper (Dennis Jones doing several funny turns as Buddy "Keno" Walsh) to confront Jerry's homophobia and make his later acceptance of two of his buddies' homosexuality credible. A quite different and wonderfully winning additional character is Jeanette Burmeister who comes out of retirement to be the group's accompanist and cheerleader and, as played by bundle of charm octogenarian Kathleen Freeman, a show stopper.

Patrick Wilson's fine acting, singing and dancing excellence in the leading role carries over to his five fellow strippers in the making. John Ellison Conlee stands out as the self-consciously overweight Dave. André De Shields makes a hilarious entrance, metamorphosing from bent-over oldster into fleetfooted hoofer. The concluding Act One's "Michael Jordan's Ball" shows off the six men's flawless ensemble work and also showcases choreographer Jerry Mitchell's ability to present a sophisticated dance number without losing the feeling that the dancers are a group of left-footed amateurs.

The wives, especially Emily Skinner as the big spender spouse of Harold (Marcus Neville), the manager who becomes one of the boys, all make the most of what are essentially secondary roles. The part of Jerry's son Nathan, is shared by Thomas Michael Fiss and Nicholas Cutro (I assume Fiss is as affecting as Cutro who appeared the night I was there).

The pop-rock-jazz beat of David Yazbek's music works well with the story's tone and the choreography. Jerry's plaintive song to his sleeping son, "Breeze Off the River", shows promise of more ballads in the composer's future. His lyrics hit home more often than not. It's worth nothing that, thanks to Harold Wheeler's excellent orchestrations and Kimberly Grigsby's spirited but never drown-them-out musical direction, every word can be clearly heard. Having a woman at the podium adds a particularly apt touch to this macho male musical.

As the music doesn't drown out the lyrics, so John Arnone's industrial set with its drop-down scene changes does not call undue attention to itself. It's fitting and attractive, but the applause goes, as it should, to the talented performers.

If I don't miss my guess, the six Buffalo strippers will soon seed others including a group that will go back to Yorkshire accents for a London production which I'm reasonably sure our "London Lizzie" would like (CurtainUp's Lizzie Loveridge). For those interested in the film that inspired the musical, here are two video versions available at our bookstore: The Full Monty: The Movie NTSC format. . . The Full Monty: The Movie wide screen

THE FULL MONTY Book by Terrence McNally
Music and lyrics by David Yazbek Directed by Jack O'Brien
Cast: (in order of appearance) Annie Golden (Georgie Bukatinsky), Denis Jones (Buddy "Keno" Walsh), Todd Weeks (Reg Willoughby), Patrick Wilson (Jerry Lukowski), John Ellison Conlee (Dave Bukatinsky), Jason Danieley (Malcolm MacGregor), Romain Frugé (Ethan Girard), Thomas Nicholas Cutro/Michael Fiss (Nathan Lukowski), Susan Hersey (Laura Maried Duncan), Joanie Lish (Janie Jones), Estelle Genovese (Liz McConahay, Lisa Datz (Pam Lukowski), Teddy Slaughter (Angelo Fraboni), Molly MacGregor (Patti Perkins), Marcus Neville (Harold Nichols), Emily Skinner (Vicki Nichols), Kathleen Freeman (Jeanette Burmeister), André De Shields (Noah T. Simmons), C. E. Smith (police sergeant), Jay Douglas (minister), Jimmy Smagula (Tony Giondano).
Choreography: Jerry Mitchell
Music direction and vocal and incidental music rangements: Ted Sperling
Sets: John Arnone
Costumes: Robert Morgan
Lighting: Howell Binkley
Sound: Tom Clark
Orchestrations: Harold Wheeler
Dance music arrangements: Zane Mark
Conductor: Kimberly Grigsby
Eugene O'Neill Theater, 230 W 49th St (8th/7th) 239-6200 Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission
Performances from 9/25/2000; opening 9/26/2000

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on November 1 performance

Musical Numbers
Act One 
“Scrap”/Jerry, Dave, Malcolm, Ethan, Reg and the Men
“It's A Woman's World”/Georgie, Susan, Joanie and Estelle
“Man”/Jerry and Dave
“Big-Ass Rock”/Jerry, Dave and Malcolm
“Life With Harold”/Vicki
“Big Black Man”/Horse and the Guys
“You Rule My World”/Dave and Harold
“Michael Jordan's Ball”/The Guys
Act Two 
“Jeanette's Showbiz Number”/Jeanette and the Guys
“Breeze Off the River”/Jerry
“The Goods”/The Guys and the Women
“You Walk with Me”/Malcolm and Ethan
“You Rule My World” (reprise)/Georgie and Vicki
“Let it Go"/The Guys and the Company
©Copyright 2000, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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