BWW Review: THE FULL MONTY at Ullensaker Teater
THE FULL MONTY was originally an Americanized musical stage version adapted from the 1997 British film of the same name. Ullensaker Teater has chosen to adapt the musical so that it serves in a local Norwegian setting, and rightly so. In this review so to make it easier for international readers I have have chosen to refer to the characters by their original names.
The musical's strength is its uninhibited joy passed on from stage to house during the rehearsal and later in the final moment when the guys present themselves in their birthday suit for a moment. This is what makes THE FULL MONTY unique, and if played well it can be a rather moving experience.
But since I just gave away the ending I might as well give you the plot. Six unemployed Ullensaker residents, low on both cash and prospects, decide to present a strip act at a local club after seeing their wives' enthusiasm for a touring company of Chippendales. One of them, Jerry, declares that their show will be better than the Chippendales dancers because they will go "the full monty" (stripping all the way). As they prepare for the show, working through their fears, self-consciousness, and anxieties, they overcome their inner demons and find strength in their camaraderie.
The adjustments works well, for the most part, and I understand why the producers changed it. The original 2002 Norwegian production merely changed it back to its original British setting, which still felt distant to the audience. The show as a whole delivers where it has too. Even though final product is a little uneven in places, it still does what it is supposed to do - taking the audience on an Intriguing journey of these characters lives.
The really standout performances goes to Per Ivar Bredesen as Dave. Where others try to get a laugh he downplays his character, and that makes it even funnier. He is joyfully sarcastic and doubtful of himself and his surroundings. His wife in show, Georgie, is played delightfully by Camilla Bergh. She relishes in "It's a Woman's World" together with a very capable and energetic female cast. During act 2 she also gets to show true emotion in a truly moving moment with the reprise of "You Rule My World".
Eirik Jahren Røine's Jerry keeps the plot moving forward. His voice is good, and one can tell he is from a rock background. This serves him well on the highest belting notes. He has an energy which is welcome in certain scenes where his comrades are somewhat uneven in the dialogue scenes.
Last but (definitely) not least Geir Ove Bredesen's Jeanette is wonderful. A nice twist to cast a man playing a woman in this part. And he does his best not to chew the scenery apart from his fellow players. Almost every line gets a laugh, but it never gets too campy, thankfully.
The ensemble as a whole has a very good energy and keeps it real, which is important in a musical such as this. If it gets overly showbiz the essence of the show disappears.
Director/Choreographer Christer Tornell has done admirable job in grounding it all in reality, especially in the musical staging and dancing. This is supposed to be non-dancers trying to do their best in an honest unpretentious manner. In the dialogue scenes the focus was somewhat off at times, while in others it was spot on. A highlight was the scene where the guys practice their "moves" during a funeral followed by a very moving rendition of "You Walk with Me", beautifully sung by Jonas Jansen and Erland slettemoe.
The Scenic design was very smartly done, with set pieces that could be used for multiple settings. Since everything from the direction, acting and costumes was based in a heighten reality I must admit I was a little bothered by the unrealistically painted brick wall, and I would have wished for it to be more fitting with the otherwise natural surroundings.
Musically this non-professional ensemble (especially the women) includes with many strong voices. And I was also truly impressed by the orchestra, made up of high-school students, under the direction of Per Ottar Gjerstad. They truly brought the (original Broadway) arrangements to life. Brava!
Ullensaker Teater has a long tradition of producing musicals that are not often (if ever) done professionally in Norway. Their past productions include THE ADDAMS FAMILY, HAIRSPRAY and THE WIZ. The latter was nominated for two Regional BroadwayWorld Awards, and I think THE FULL MONTY will be a strong contender during the 2019 voting.