BWW Interviews: Getting a Peek at Otterbein's FULL MONTY
One can only imagine the conversation between David Buergler and his parents John and Kim when he found out he landed a major role in Otterbein University's production of THE FULL MONTY.
The good news: Buergler landed the role of unemployed mill worker Dave Bukatinsky, one of the main characters in the musical.
The potentially awkward news: He plays a male stripper.
"My mom told my old high school director 'I don't know I should be proud or scared about what will happen there,'" says Buergler, a freshman who will be making his Otterbein theatre debut with the show. "My dad says 'We're going to get seats in the back of the balcony or maybe we'll just wait in the car and come in at the end and say you a great job.' All joking aside, they're very proud of me."
"It's different from any other show I've done," adds Connor Allston, who plays Jerry Lukowski who comes up with the idea to do a Chippendale's type show featuring average guys to raise money. "My parents were really proud of me and then they said 'Oh boy I never thought I'd be inviting relatives to come see you strip.'"
THE FULL MONTY, which opens 7:30 p.m. April 24 at Fritsche Theatre, is not an NC-17 musical and the actual nudity is discreetly done and only lasts a second or two. For the final number the actors are bare cheeked with their backs to the audience and wearing police hats. They remove the g string and use the hats to cover their front. Later in the song "Let It Go," they step behind a sign bathed in the glow of 36 flood lights, so when they go the Full Monty, the audience only sees the silhouettes momentarily before the lights go out.
However the actual stripping is a very small part of the plot of the show as well. Based on a 1997 British film of the same name, THE FULL MONTY has several plotlines dispersed throughout the show. When he loses his job after a local steel mill closes in Buffalo, N.Y., Jerry Lukowski becomes desperate for money. He steals items from the old mill and gets himself arrested. Once he's released from jail, his wife Pam (Courtney Dahl) leaves him. If he is to continue to have visitation rights with his son Nathan (Clark Tieman), Lukowski must pay child support.
After seeing the reaction to a Chippendale's show, Lukowski gets the idea of having a similar performance featuring local guys and recruits four other "dancers" to perform.
"He figures if 1,000 people watch and they all give us $50 that will give us $50,000 (to split among the five)," Allston says. "He'll be able to get his life back on track. Lukowski rounds up these misfit guys who all have their own issues."
Buergler's Bukatinsky, for example, battles issues with self-image and self-esteem that has wreaked havoc on his marriage to Georgie (Mason Smajstrla).
"He doesn't want anyone to see what he has to look at in the mirror every day. He has a lot of issues in the bedroom due to his weight," Buergler says. "His story line involves him trying to get his marriage back to where it was while figuring out how to get another job."
Another member of the troupe, Harold Nichols (Alex Huffman) is an unemployed supervisor at the mill who still hasn't managed to tell his wife Vicki (Natalie Szczerba) that he lost his job. The pair continues to spend money even though there are no more paychecks coming in.
Other key members of the cast include Alex Armesto (Reg Willoughby), Monica Brown (Estelle Genovese), Jeff Gise (Buddy 'Keno' Walsh), Jared Howelton (Noah 'Horse' Simmons), Steven Meeker (Tony Giordano), Jenna Miller (Molly MacGregor) Mary Kate O'Neill (Joanie Lish), Sam Parker (Teddy Slaughter), Kevin Thiel (Malcom MacGregor)), Luke Stewart (Ethan Girard), Erin Ulman (Susan Hershey) and Kayla Walsh (Jeanette Burmeister).
Allston first learned of the musical when he saw part of a YouTube video of "Big Ass Rock." Later he sang "Breeze Off The River" when he auditioned for Otterbein, not knowing the show would be this spring musical.
Despite its somewhat tawdry set up, Allston says THE FULL MONTY presents a universal truth.
"One of the messages is you shouldn't be ashamed of what you look like and you should accept yourself for who you are," Allston says.
THE FULL MONTY opens 7:30 p.m. April 24 at Cowan Hall's Fritsche Theatre (30 Grove Street in Westerville). Other performances include 8 p.m. shows on April 25-26, and May 1-3 with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 28. For ticket information, call 614-823-1109 or visit www.otterbein.edu/drama.