By BREUSE HICKMAN
Given the musical “The Full Monty” is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and this is Melbourne Civic Theatre’s second time at this rodeo you might expect this production to show us the goods and much more. Good news: This production does not disappoint.
Chances are you already know it’s a charming, uplifting – albeit, bawdy – spectacle about teamwork, friendship and body acceptance. Director Peg Girard has done a fantastic job utilizing the small theater space for the large cast and Heather Mowad’s lively choreography requires the men to be comically sensual. Scenic designer Alan Selby’s warehouse set is fun to look at for all of its multi-purpose uses. A drawer opens to reveal a rehearsal piano at one point.
As you know, the stage show about six out-of-work men who form a male strip revue is based on the 1997 movie. MCT previously staged the show in 2009 when it showed plenty of box office appeal. The book is by playwright and four-time Tony Award winner
As expected, the show boasts nudity, mostly of hind quarters but not much more you wouldn’t expect to see at the beach or while shopping at Wal-mart. Going down that checklist, there are some f-words in the song lyrics. But you knew you weren’t seeing another production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” right?
The show opens with an eyeful of hot stuff that should get hormones slam dancing thanks to Wagner DeAssis who has two marvelous things going for him and they both serve to keep his g-string in place. This show marks the Brazilian musician’s first appearance on the MCT stage and what a charming debut it is. At times he seems to have learned his lines phonetically. But so what? With his dude ‘tude and dance moves he serves the show’s purpose to illustrate the contrast between a Chippendales-style dancer and the average blokes who come together to do something that’s terrifying, yet ultimately rewarding.
Not that cast members Dan Wilkerson and Michael “Big Mike” Paul aren’t pleasant on the eyes. Gym memberships pay off.
Where were we? Oh yes, the story.
Whereas the movie was set in a blue-collar English town, the story for the stage show concerns six unemployed steel workers in Buffalo, N.Y. Alfie Silva perfectly walks the line between being confrontational and good humored. He discovers there is big money to be made in male striptease so he and his out-of-work buddies form the group “Hot Metal.”
There is much sweetness to be felt and hardly anything saccharine, particularly involving the relationships between the men and the women in their lives.
But it’s the relationship between Jerry and his son Nathan (a nice subtle performance by 13-year-old Kyle Caudill who avoids precocious trappings) that provides the story line its purpose and gives the show heart.
Each cast member – and that goes for members of the ensemble – get their chance to shine and the payoff is worth it .
It’s fun watching the guys – and the actors playing them – gel as they become more comfortable with their bodies and working as a team.
A comedic delight throughout is Dana J. Blanchard as Jerry’s best bud Dave.” Particularly fun to watch is Andrew Villa as Noah (aka, ahem, “Horse”). His transition as he begins to find his groove is like watching someone age in reverse.
Michael Paul is reprising his role as Harold, a mill supervisor who lavishes his wife (played by Rita Moreno, always a joy of a class act to see and hear) with material goods and can’t admit to her that he no longer has a job. Also reprising a role is Alan Selby as Malcolm, an inhibited man with suicidal tendencies. Expect to fight back tears during Selby’s mournful rendition of “You Walk With Me.”
Despite some sad moments, the show stays true to its upbeat self. If there’s a villain to be had it’s found in Michael Thompson as Teddy Slaughter. Thompson has played a zillion characters on the Space Coast but being a bad guy seems to suit him best.
While the story is focused on the men, the women are just as crucial to the plot and this production. I particularly liked Tracey Thompson as Georgie, Dave’s wife who serves as his main motivation. Holly McFarland gets to show off some sass and I’ll leave it at that.
Everyone is in fine voice (and that goes for actors who may not be known as seasoned musical performers). KT Lee serves as the show’s musical director.
As usual, Wendy Reader’s sound design mixes well with the action, though some of the canned segue music reminded me of my neighborhood ice cream truck.
Particularly a joy to listen to are Michael Paul and Silva who beautifully maneuver through the lower and sudden high notes the songs require.
SIDE O’ GRITS:
“The Full Monty” runs through April 27 at Melbourne Civic Theatre, 817 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sundays. Get your tickets now. The show could be a sell-out. Tickets are ; for senior citizens and military personnel. For info, call 321-723-6935 or visit MyMCT.org.