BWW Review: THE FULL MONTY at the Warner Theatre
Imagine you suddenly find yourself out of a job and unable to find a new one. You have bills to pay and a family to support. Would you do whatever it takes to make ends meet? Even if that meant becoming a stripper in front of thousands of people you know? That is the dilemma facing the out of work men at the center of the Warner Theatre's current production of Terrence McNally and David Yazbek's musical, THE FULL MONTY.
THE FULL MONTY takes place in the 1990's in Buffalo, NY and tells the story of best friends Jerry Lukowski (Rob Girardin), Dave Bukatinsky (John Quinn) and their co-workers at the local steel mill that has recently shut its doors. These men are having trouble finding new jobs and feeling frustrated and defeated. Their wives and girlfriends have become the primary breadwinners and at the beginning of the play, treat themselves to girls' night at a local male strip show. Jerry learns how much these strippers make each night and gets the idea to pull together some local men to form his own stripper group - "Hot Steel". Jerry and a reluctant Dave are joined by Malcolm (Zachary Taylor), Ethan (Tony Leone), their former supervisor, Harold (John Royse) and new acquaintance, Horse (Jamal Ford-Bey). Together the guys stumble through rehearsals with their geriatric (but spunky) accompanist, Jeanette (Eve Van Syckle) as the date grows closer for their big "reveal". Along the way, friendships (and more) are forged and tested, and this unlikely crew learn about true friendship and responsibility and what it means to be a man, while learning to "take it all off".
The entire ensemble of the Warner's THE FULL MONTY is extremely strong, especially the six friends and members of "Hot Steel". Rob Girardin's Jerry is your stereotypical wise-cracking guy's guy. He's a bit hung up on what makes a real man (he even sings a song about it), but at heart, he just wants to do what is best for his son Nathan (played with skill by young Jake Kordas). Mr. Girardin has an electric stage presence and a strong voice that he brings to the role. As his overweight friend Dave, John Quinn is equally frustrated, yet more grounded than his friend Jerry. Zachary Taylor's Malcolm is timid and uncertain (with a beautiful voice), but willing to go along with Jerry's plan, if nothing else to have people to hang out with for a change. Jamal Ford-Bey, as Horse, Tony Leone as Ethan, and John Royse as Harold are also all quite funny and strong in their respective roles. While the focus of the musical is on these six men, the women of THE FULL MONTY certainly have their moments in the spotlight as well, including Dave's wife Georgie (Katie Chamberlain), Harold's wife Vicki (the over the top, hilarious Juliette Koch) and the dry (but wise) Jeanette (Eve Van Syckle).
In terms of the creative team, Roxie Quinn does a strong job as both the director and choreographer. The choreography for the opening number "Scrap" (utilizing folding chairs) and the first act closer "Michael Jordan's Ball" stand out in terms of creative choreography. But besides the strong dancing, Ms. Quinn brings out honest, funny, and touching performances from the full cast. Michael Berkeley delivers an amazing sound as musical director, both from the cast and the 13-piece, on-stage orchestra. Ms. Quinn also serves as set designer along with Stephen C. Houk, and their simple, yet extremely effective set provides the perfect background for the story of these friends and their journey to performing "the full monty" (slang for taking everything completely off on stage).
The Warner Stage Company's production of THE FULL MONTY shows, once again, why it is one of the best community theatre groups in the area. It brings together a stellar cast, strong scenic design and choreography, and a skilled orchestra to provide audiences with an evening (or afternoon) of top notch entertainment. And though the story is set twenty years in our past, the frustration with jobs lost and the uncertainty (and desperation) that follows couldn't be timelier. On a final note, this is a show about men stripping, so there is nudity, adult language and themes, but all done in a careful and tasteful manner. You don't want to miss this one!
THE FULL MONTY runs at the Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, Torrington, CT through May 13th. To purchase tickets, call the Warner Box Office at 860-489-7180 or visit warnertheatre.org.
Photo credit: Mandi Martini
Pictured: Rob Girardin (Jerry), Zachary Taylor (Malcolm), John Quinn (Dave)
Rob Girardin as Jerry Lukowski
Eve Van Syckle (Jeanette)