By PAM HARBAUGH
Men are going onstage and taking their clothes off again. This time it’s Titusville Playhouse delivering “The Full Monty”…and audiences are loving it.
The musical is based on the 1997 movie which was set in England, hence the odd expression “full monty” — British slang for doing something all the way. Here, though, it is set in Buffalo, NY and concerns a group of six unemployed blue-collar men, most of whom worked in a mill. The men discover there’s a lot of money to be made in strip tease and set about forming a Chippendales-inspired troupe determined to bare it all. However, instead of the muscular types who know how to gyrate, these are average middle-aged men who have to overcome their inhibition, fueled in part by their expanding waist lines and saggy bottoms.
The musical was born at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater and came to Broadway in 2000. Even then, stage nudity was no longer shocking. But the bottom line conceit propelling this show’s popularity is the idea that six men will bare it all, with semi-modesty provided by back light throwing the men into sudden silhouette and white terry cloth robes to slip into as soon as the curtain comes down. Audiences are challenged to see “the goods,” as it were. While younger audiences may not care if they can see, especially if the men are old enough to be their fathers (or grandfathers), the titillating gamble for the audiences of a certain age is “Could you or couldn’t you?”
The music, written by David Yazbeck, is solid, revealing character, warm humor and tender theme. However, after having seen this show so many times, I’m now noticing the horrible dialogue. You may be surprised to learn that the person who wrote the book is none other than Terrence McNally. Unlike his other riveting dramas, here the dialogue is only moves the story in mill factory, assembly line fashion. Theater mavens may find themselves agonizing over lines such as: “I’ve always wanted to be a dancer but I couldn’t dance….I’m Donald O’Connor, you’re you. Watch. Here goes nothing.” and “His wife is on him to take one of those security jobs at Wal-Mart. I wouldn’t be surprised if we went to those interviews they’re having.” Yeah, it’s pretty surprising that this allowed Mr. McNally a Tony nomination.
And, it’s also surprising that I’m now finding myself wanting this to be a musical revue instead of a musical. After all, as directed by Steven Heron, music directed by Spencer Crosswell, choreographed by Mark Hardin and performed by a talented cast, the musical numbers shine.Standouts include Shea Rafferty as Jerry Lukowski, a divorced father behind on his child support. Joe Tokarz is Dave Bukatinsky, a man whose self-esteem has plummeted despite love from his wife, Georgie, played by Traci McGough (a talented amateur actress who gets a chance to shine here). James Berkley steals it as Noah “Horse” T. Simmons, who sings the showstopping “Big Black Man.” Kyle McDonald is touching as Malcolm MacGregor who sings the musical’s most beautiful moment, “You Walk With Me.” And Melinda Lebo — always in such sweet voice — as Vicki, who sings about her husband “Life with Harold.” And Karen MacDonald is a hoot as sassy Jeanette, the piano player who’s made many trips around the show-biz block.
There’s no question “The Full Monty” is a crowd-pleasing show. That’s why theaters love mounting productions of it. Audiences at Titusville Playhouse are lapping it up, hooting and hollering and having a great time.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Full Monty” runs through Oct. 18 at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Curtain is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $20 to $26. Call 321-268-1125 or visit TitusvillePlayhouse.com.