BWW Review: THE FULL MONTY at Mainstage Irving Las Colinas
Unemployment is on the minds of many worldwide, and while rates continue to fluctuate many people are turning to alternative methods to pay the bills. Making light of this contemporary struggle, The Full Monty explores the tale of six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers who have exhausted their cash reserves, their job prospects, and their families. With the local factory closed, the men are relegated to the daily "wife" duties while the women venture out to make the big bucks.
The story centers around best friends Jerry Lukowski and Dave Bukatinsky. Flailing for a foothold in this unemployment upheaval Jerry, played by Preston Isham, and his colleagues search for new work, a new purpose, and a restored sense of patriarchal normalcy. But when he and Dave, played by Jeff Burleson, snoop on the local girls at the Chippendales touring show, they stumble upon more than mere gossip. Seeing how the male strippers earned the adoration, and hard earned cash, of the women in town, Jerry and Dave plot to make back their missed wages in one blowout, butt-baring showcase. By enlisting the help of other disenfranchised steelworkers, they scheme and rehearse to give the ladies what they want. Jerry boasts that their one-night engagement will outperform that of the Chippendales dancers because they vow to showcase "the full monty" by stripping all the way, in hopes to earn the boys 50k!
The Full Monty opened Friday May 11th at Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas to a riotous crowd. The lobby was bedecked with cleverly placed cardboard cutouts of Chippendales dancer Keno, played by Cameron Fox. This certainly seemed to get the blood boiling, as the audience was chattering pre-show with giggled anticipation, and once the curtain speech was made the theatergoers eagerly awaited the goods to be seen on stage.
However, once the actors entered the space a touch of the palpable energy had dropped. That unfortunately seemed to set a precedent for the rest of the opening night performance, where the ensemble characters felt just a bit... flaccid. The character of Keno has to quickly command the stage with abundant confidence, energy, and sex appeal in the opening number. While actor Cameron Fox is suitably built to play the role, and clearly technically trained as a dancer, his hesitant transitions and apparent awkwardness with his lines made for an uncomfortable introduction. Actress Samantha Padilla, as Georgie Bukatinsky, garnered more interest but her fellow females felt a bit flat. Luckily for Mainstage, they have a champion in lead Preston Isham.
Isham helms the show with veritable ease. His character Jerry is just an average Joe: bearded, bedecked in flannel and trucker hat, he seems like any modern, unassuming 30-something. But his voice is what really delights--strong and clear, with a subtle hint of that rocker verve; I would not be surprised if Isham regularly performs gigs in Deep Ellum with a local alternative band. He makes the character of Jerry sorely relatable as the down-on-his-luck dad, and you empathize with his desperation at the thought of losing custody of his son. Jeff Burleson is equally as engaging as Dave, the stay at home husband with a bit more belly than he'd prefer to bear. His character arc of depression to self-acceptance is endearing, with his only misstep being a few marred notes during the heartfelt duet "You Rule My World".
Secondary character Malcolm MacGregor, played impeccably by Dakota Davis, was perhaps the brightest light in the show. His portrayal of Malcolm is nothing short of precious. Davis banks serious comedic timing credits and a beautiful pop belt that could easily star in any contemporary musical. (This kid really needs to tour Book of Mormon.) His boyish charm is simply infectious and it is a pleasure to watch his character blossom. Jeanette Burmeister, played by Lisa Anne Haram, also deserves praise as an instant energizer and breath of fresh air when on stage. Her pithy quick quips and anecdotal tales of showbiz days gone by are hysterical and earn her justifiable audience applause. Carlos Brumfield also earns honorable mention for his embodiment of Noah "Horse" T Simmons. It was truly impressive to see him hobble as an old man but bust some serious moves when the music hits. It felt as though Brumfield wanted to do even more with his dance breaks than the given action at hand.
As an ensemble, the talent of the rest of the Buffalo townspeople seemed to be just on the cusp of a stellar presentation. Every single actor had brief glimmers of stand out moments, but the stamina often ebbed until the next musical number. Pacing on opening night was the key missing element in several scenes, something that could easily be rectified with a bit of awareness. The dancers felt inexplicably timid at times with Kelly McCain's choreography, and in the case of the auxiliary movement to Vickie Nichols' (played by Sherry Etzel) kooky "Life With Harold" their dancing bordered on distracting. There also appeared to be some technical issues opening night with several missed mic-cues and delayed lighting effects. It was difficult to tell, as the board operator was not listed in the program, but it appeared as though they had one individual running both elements which is a formidable task.
Barring the few moments of dropped energy, which hopefully ticks up as the performance moves along, The Fully Monty is a commendable production. And if those lighting cues don't pick up, you should definitely come out for a chance at seeing ALL the goods! The Full Monty directed by Bruce R. Coleman runs at Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas May 11th through May 26th. Tickets can be purchase at www.irvingtheatre.org or by calling the box office at 972-252-2787 (ARTS).