From the first downbeat of the excellent pit orchestra, you know you are in for a big treat with Riverside Theatre’s production of “The Full Monty.”
In Terrence McNally’s stage adaptation of the 1997 movie, six out of work men decide to take a big risk and bare it all on stage. The same can be said of Riverside Theatre, which took some pretty big chances by producing this frequently naughty musical in the conservative Vero Beach community. After all, quite a few men on stage end up turning the other cheek. But at Thursday’s sold-out opening, the cast had to hold dialogue more than once for the laughter to ebb.
It begins with a woman whooping and cheering on the audience (the actual audience) at a supposed male dancer revue. In comes Todd DuBail as Keno, the male dancer who struts his stuff so well on stage, those in the front row might be tempted to tuck a dollar bill into his thong.
But wait, there’s a lot more to come.
Directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, the perfectly paced show traces the precarious plan of these men who have lost their job at a factory in Buffalo, NY. Emulating a Chippendale performer, they seek to regain their mojo
Once again, Riverside scores big with an excellent cast. Here, it is led by an appealing Jim Newman as Jerry Lukowski, the down on his luck former factory worker who comes up with the plan. Joe Coots is sweet and charming as chubby Dave Bukatinsky. Brian Golub moves as Malcolm MacGregory, and delivers some of the show’s sweetest musical moments. The threesome are particularly funny in “Big-Ass Rock,” where they try to determine how best to help Malcolm leave this mortal coil.
Tim Ewing finds the resonating understated moments as Harold Nichols. Jerome Harmann thrills as Horse, the oldest man of the group who really stirs it up with the funny and entertaining “Big Black Man.” And Anthony Festa brings out the sweetness of Ethan Girard.
But watch out for Diane J. Findlay who dishes out some big laughs as Jeannette Burmeister, the old show-biz gal the men get to play piano. Findlay, she of delicious timing, steals the show, even with all those men on stage showing their bare bums.
While the male characters have some good revelations and arcs they traverse, the rest of the female characters are more or less shrill accessories for their counterparts.. Nevertheless, there are some standouts, including Brooke Wilson as Georgie Bukatinsky and Maria Couch as Vicki Nichols.
Music director Ken Clifton squeezes every drop out of David Yazbek’s terrific, pounding score. The music rocks throughout. Scenic designer Cliff Simon creates a very usable design which lets the action move from one place to another without missing a beat. Lisa Zinni’s costume design evokes more of an ’80s look than “the present,” as written in the program.
Although he cuts the final moment too short, Richard Winkler’s lighting design is well thought out. It is especially good in “The Goods,” a musical number in which the men second-guess their decision. As they are about to rehearse, they begin to think what the women will say about them. Lights change, furniture gets moved in a second and suddenly we are transported into their nightmare worries. But I sure wanted that final moment to linger, just a half-second longer.
I’ve seen three previous productions of this musical, the first being Broadway’s first national tour. But Riverside’s high-powered production is the best yet. It’s fun, funny, entertaining and has great heart. You understand the men’s agony, especially given today’s economic climate. You get their choice and cheer them on. After all, it’s not just their bodies they are baring, but their need. They make themselves vulnerable. In doing so, they reveal themselves at their most human.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Full Monty” runs through Feb. 5 at Riverside Theatre, 3250 Riverside Drive, Vero Beach. Tickets begin at . Call 772-231-6990 or visit www.riversidetheatre.com.