BWW Reviews: Third Street Theatre's FULL MONTY Has Got the Goods
Since the 2000 Broadway musical, which endearingly moved the action of the popular 1997 film from Great Britain to the United States, The Full Monty has become as popularly American as apple pie. Well...almost! It does use basketball and Michael Jordan as the motivation for one of its great dance numbers. And much more than that, it represents the struggling middle-class that is still plagued with unemployment, but whose citizens also continue to dream the American dream, whereby anything is possible. And, even more to the letter, it shows down-to-earth, down-on-their-luck men, who may be overweight or possessing only average endowment - far from perfect, with pimples and all ... who try to make a difference...differently ... by risking it all and doing a Chippendales strip show to earn some money. Factory workers on one side; the corporate world on the other, dictating what you should do and should not! And who says we do not live in a fascist state? Present day die-hard Republicans will hate the show for its so-called immorality and more to the point, for its suggested promotion of community involvement in the arts, and, of course, for its display of breaking the rules. Thus the production now at the Third Street Theatre, replete with perfect direction and cast, is ever so timely in the wake of this crucial upcoming election, a wake up call for Americans to take action against ignorance and inhumanity.
OK, down off the soap box, this is a musical, not a political promotion for the Democratic Party, but the playful resourcefulness/risky creativity that the show suggests cannot be denied. Hell, I'd get up and strip - but there's too much violence in the world already - if I thought it would make a difference in the way people think! Jerry (Will Collyer), Dave (Ryan O'Connor), Malcolm (Morgan Reynolds), Ethan (Justin Michael Wilcox), Noah (Harrison White) and Harold (Chip Phillips) are hugely different personalities who unite for a common purpose, staying true to one another and most importantly to themselves.
The Full Monty may speak to you or me about this or that, but it's primarily a fun evening of theatre with a sensational score by Dave Yazbek, so deliciously jazzy yet with two of the most beautiful ballads of the last decade: "You Rule My World" and "You Walk With Me". They signify comaraderie and love, which is pretty much summed up by the show in the last scene when those onstage pull the audience in jubilantly. The women laugh at first at the thought of their pimply-assed mates taking it all off, but then they cheer them on, so vive la difference!
Under Richard Israel's slick direction, this is a deliriously enjoyable cast. All the guys play their roles with intelligence and verve. Collyer is at once intense and eager; O'Connor really feels Dave's sense of self-loathing; Reynolds brings out the humor in the mama's boy Malcolm and Wilcox as Ethan is fiercely likeable. White is a hoot as Horse and Phillips, with the most challenging part, makes Harold as humane as possible. Shannon Warne creates the no-nonsense Pam from the ground up, even without a song of her own. Jan Sheldrick makes the sarcastic yet caring Jeanette unforgettable. Think Eve Arden -only singing and dancing! Erin Bennett is enthusiastically loving as Georgie; Sydney Blair, fresh and feisty as the tart Estelle. Todd Stroik is all arrogance as Keno, the real stripper, but gets a chance to show versatility playing an amateur at the audition. Praise as well to Owen Teague, so good-natured and supportive as Nathan, and Paul Walling, Suzan Solomon, Nikki Jenkins, Brian Durkin, and Wendy Rosoff who complete the winning ensemble. Kudos as well to John Todd's bright choreography, to Sheiva Khalily's effective scenic/projection design and to Jessica Olson's fine costuming.
I never tire of The Full Monty, because quite frankly it's a musical that has it all: great music and dancing, an infectiously bold sense of living... and real contemporary American sass and nerve. Third Street Theatre maintains its stellar reputation with yet another valiant production!