BWW Review: THE FULL MONTY, Old Joint Stock Theatre Birmingham
Originally premiering on Broadway in 2000, the musical production of The Full Monty is a respectfully adapted version of the 1997 film about a group of unemployed men who decide to become strippers for a night to raise money. Surprisingly, the more recently produced play didn't reach the stage until 2013.
A triumph in itself, the musical is lesser known but works equally as well, despite the fact the location has been moved to Buffalo in the States. The Old Joint Stock in Birmingham have produced their version of the show, which officially opened last night.
Topics such as unemployment, custody battles, body image, sexuality and depression are all present in Terrence McNally's book, in what is classed as a musical comedy. The issues are generally approached in a softer way and reflected upon in a musical number, but this doesn't dampen their poignancy.
David Yazbek's music and lyrics tie in well with the plot, in which there is a fine line not to cast a shadow over these subjects that are still as prevalent today as when it was written. This balance is executed well and the audience is able to laugh one minute and be entirely moved the next without this feeling uncomfortable.
The Old Joint Stock is staging the show with the audience on three sides. The playing space is dominated by a scaffolding and wooden plank structure, contributing to the industrial setting and allowing director Adam Lacey additional scope for his blocking.
There are no extra set pieces brought in, but each scene is incredibly clear in its location. Paul and Hannah Finch are responsible for the technical elements of the show, which all appear to run smoothly. The sound is extremely clear and nicely balanced with the band - led by musical director Jack Hopkins - throughout the performance.
Each character has their own story, and as an audience member, you feel completely drawn in. This is testament to the brilliant writing, Lacey's excellent direction and the supremely talented cast.
The songs are delivered with gusto and are vocally sound from start to finish. Some are perhaps more memorable than others, but in the moment seem appropriate. "Let It Go" is a very good finale number, but I must admit that "You Can Leave Your Hat On" is so iconic from the film, this is sadly missed.
Pippa Lacey's choreography varies in complexity depending on the number. The female cast have some very sassy content, whilst the male cast, who are meant to be amateur performers, are given material suitable to their ability at the time in the show. All of the choreography works effectively in the playing space.
The entire company are sensational and perfectly cast. Standout performances come from Alex Wadham as Jerry, Oliver Britten as Dave and Kirsty Cartwright as Jeanette.
Wadham as Jerry is the lynchpin of the show, and his relationship with his son is very believable and touching. His vocals are superb and he demonstrates his competency in falsetto as well as showing his wide range.
Dave, played by Britten, is acted superbly, and his character is entirely relatable to the audience. Cartwright has the ultimate comedy role as Jeanette and steals focus in a good way whenever she's onstage.
The entire production is well executed on every level and is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. You won't find a better night out in Birmingham this month.