REVIEW: THE FULL MONTY, New Players Theatre
Thom Sutherland's new production of the musical version of The Full Monty at the New Players Theatre looks set to be the hit of the holiday season in London. This scaled-down, intimate and inventively staged presentation pushes all the right buttons for an audience looking for a musical that is funny and entertaining without sacrificing its level of intelligence.
The story is quite simple: six unemployed men - including flawed hero, Jerry Lukowski, who desperately needs some fast cash to pay his ex-wife his arrears in child support or risk losing his son, Nathan - decide to set themselves up as male strippers for a one-night show in the hope of making a killing at the box office. Along the way there is a great deal of soul-searching and self-revelation for each of the characters until the climactic and hilarious performance is delivered. Raucous and bawdy it may be but its serious underbelly always has the ring of truth.
The musical is based on the smash-hit movie of the same name, written by Simon Beaufoy, though the setting has been changed from Sheffield, England to Buffalo, New York. This Americanisation of an iconic British piece might seem to some to be somewhat sacrilegious - and that might have been the case were the writing of the show's libretto not in the hands of master playwright/librettist Terrence McNally (Master Class, Ragtime, Kiss Of the Spider Woman, A Man Of No Importance). McNally succeeds in retaining the heart-warming yet gritty reality of the original and adds his own brand of humour steeped in reality and flowing naturally from the clearly defined characters. And at just the right moments the writing is moving without being clichéd. Added to this is David Yazbeck's terrific score - full of energy, power and melody and perfectly capturing the mood of the piece in each song.
The success of Sutherland's production owes much to the talent of his cast. Ably assisted by a superb ensemble, each of the principals delivers a knock-out performance (Gareth Nash as Malcolm, Herve Goffings as Horse, Robert Rees as Ethan, Peter St James as Dave, Sarah Waddell as Georgie, Tegwan Tucker as Pam, Charleen Qwaye as Vicki, Nick Fawcett as Harold, Adam Colbourne as Nathan and Anthony Wise as wise-cracking pianist Jeanette). But even with this great array of talent around him, Adam Bayjou is quite outstanding as Jerry. His voice has the perfect combination of pure melody and raw passion, his acting displays the sheer frustration of the character's situation and during a few quite special moments his delivery has sufficient subtlety to make them genuinely touching. Most importantly - as with every other element of the staging and performances - it is always believable.
In the current economic climate, a show set in a community rocked by the effects of recession is perhaps more relevant than ever. And the sheer joy of this show will bring a smile to the face of anyone who is lucky enough to see it.