BWW Reviews: FULL MONTY Makes Successful Transition from Silver Screen to Musical
Somewhere between Hollywood Boulevard and Broadway, there's an intersection where somewhat successful movies are turned into crowd-pleasing musicals and vice-versa. How else do you explain sensations like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, SUNSET BOULEVARD, and LEGALLY BLONDE?
THE FULL MONTY, which is being performed at Otterbein University's Fritsche Theater, is the latest of these Hollywood movies to find new life on the Broadway scene. The 1997 British comedy is masterfully transformed by yet another solid Otterbein cast.
Unlike the movie, the musical version of THE FULL MONTY takes place in Buffalo, N.Y. as opposed to Sheffield, England. The other primary difference is the movie is filled with witty dialogue and an unremarkable soundtrack (save Randy Newman's "Leave Your Hat On"). While at times the dialogue can be either clichés or groin groaners, the musical version delivers the goods with songs like the witty "Big Ass Rock" and "Big Black Man" and the touching "You Walk With Me" and "Breeze Off The River."
After a local steel mill closes, Jerry Lukowski (played by Connor Allston) is need of child support money to keep visitation rights with his son Nathan (Clark Tieman). Jerry convinces his best friend Teddy Bukatinsky (David Buergler) to form "Melted Steel," a Chippendale-like group, in hopes of raising $50,000. Confronted with the fact that they have far less than chiseled physiques like the Chippendales, Lukowski ups the ante by agreeing to go the full Monty and show ... well ... everything.
Allston and Buergler, roommates in real life, shine in their roles as friends. Allston carries off Lukowski's cocksure swagger and scheming nature with gusto and Buergler nails Bukatinsky's struggles with his own self-esteem issues.
Along the way the two recruit four other mill works each with their own set of problems and insecurities. Jared Howelton and Kevin Thiel provide the fireworks of the first act.
Howelton's Noah "Horse" T. Simmons was mesmerizing in "Big Black Man," a hilariously raunchy sendup in which Howelton transforms from a frumpy old man in his mid-60s to a strutting strip sensation.
Thiel's Malcolm MacGregor is on the other end of the emotional spectrum. Depressed over losing his job and living with his mother, MacGregor feels friendless and attempts suicide. In the song, "Big Ass Rock," Bukatinsky and Lukowski save and befriend him, telling him they'll help him with his next attempt: "This world is cold when you're alone and they ignore you But don't kill yourself, we'll do it for you."
As Jeanette Burmeister, a chain-smoking piano player who just shows at practices and refuses to go away, Kayla Walsh delivers some of the best one liners and is featured in "Jeanette's Showbiz Number."
Mason Smajstrla (Georgie Bukatinsky), Alexander Huffman (Harold Nichols), Courtney Dahl (Pam Lukowski), Luke Stewart (Ethan Girard) and Jeff Gise (Buddy "Keno" Walsh) also turn in extraordinary performances.
What makes it THE FULL MONTY extraordinary is the emotional journey it takes the audience on. Although it contains brief nudity (including a discreetly done full Monty during "Let It Go"), the show's storyline offers moments of heart as well as comedy. "You Walk With Me," Thiel and Stewart's heartfelt ballad during a funeral of MacGregor's mother, reduced a couple next to me to tears and Allston's "Breeze Off The River" was equally as touching.
The way Broadway and Otterbein keep churning movies into solid musicals makes me look forward to the 2023 production of TERMINATOR 3 RISE OF THE MACHINES: THE MUSICAL.
THE FULL MONTY will be performed 8 p.m. May1-3 at Cowan Hall's Fritsche Theatre (30 Grove Street in Westerville). For ticket information, call 614-823-1109 or visit www.otterbein.edu/drama.