The Full Monty started as a British film in 1997, and was adapted by Terrence McNally and David Yazbek into a Broadway musical in 2000. Now it's received its first NYC revival since the Broadway run ended three years ago. How lucky McNally and Yazbek were that it was The Gallery Players behind this revival. Their capable cast, impressive production values, and upbeat direction made this a genuine boon to the Off-Off-Broadway community.
For those who haven’t seen the movie or Broadway run, The Full Monty is about six out-of-work blue-collar schmoes with a get rich quick scheme... become male strippers! The logic here being: if women will shovel out bucks to see the Chippendales, then a group of beer-drinking manly men, willing to strip all the way down and show the full monty, will make a fortune! It’s an underdog story that avoids clichés and genuinely makes you root for the little guy (insert your own double entendre here).
For those who've seen the movie, McNallly's book is a pretty faithful adaptation, with the notable change that it's set in America rather than England. The book is strong enough to stand on its own, and Yazbek’s lyrics and music just add more strength to that. Yazbek has some brilliant moments, including when he rhymes "cojones" with "testosterone is".
In this production, the six leads were played by a terrific ensemble. Mitchell Jarvis was the lead Jerry, and made a very sympathetic hero. Dann B. Black had the audience eating out of his hands during his “Big Black Man” number, and nailed the spirit of the show by blossoming from an old man into a sexy stud, right before the audience's eyes.
The weak link in the show was the female cast. A couple of the women give lackluster performances, made all the more glaring in the context of the leading men.
The direction, by Matt Schicker, brought out the fun of this show. It never became farcical, but there were moments where things got very silly, with some physical comedy (like the disastrous dress rehearsal scene where the strippers can’t get out of their pants without tripping over each other). Dax Valdes’s choreography was versatile, and Valdes did a great job with a few scenes that have dialog and dance at once.
Timothy J. Amrhein designed set pieces that could turn the stage into a bathroom, a car, or a nightclub dance floor with ease. It wasn't as opulent as a Broadway show, but it was top-of-the-line for Off-Off Broadway.
Monty is that rare male-oriented piece of musical theatre. It’s a perfect date show (boyfriend could love watching the struggle of the average Joes, and girlfriends could love the struggling of Brandon Straka’s G-string as it tries to contain his bulging manhood). It was also an all-around fun show too. Those who missed the Broadway run did well to catch this incarnation. In fact this production was something no theatregoer should have missed.
Also featuring Kim Ramsey, Michael S. Hiller, Luiz J. Manzi, Chris Wyde, Scott Windham, Darron Cardosa, Gavino Olvera, Julian Pavlo, Holden Berryman, Elizabeth Wipff, Tiffany Green, Lauren Chapman, Erin Leigh Lestikow, Logan Tracey, Aimee Trumbore, Denis Michael Keefe, Michael Roth, Patti McClure, Matt Stevens, and Tricia Norris.)
Book: 2/Lyrics: 2/Music: 1
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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby