Takin’ it off with ‘The Full Monty’ | VailDaily.com

Takin’ it off with ‘The Full Monty’

Alex Miller

ARVADA – Simply put, the Arvada Center’s new production of the musical “The Full Monty” is one of the strongest, most entertaining productions of the year, and it’s well worth the drive down the hill to see it.Though preposterous, the premise behind “The Full Monty” is simple enough: Six out-of-work mill workers, in desperation, decide to stage a male striptease show in their home town. While the comic potential for such a scenario is enormous, “The Full Monty” also takes some time between the laughs to ponder some male issues that aren’t often explored.That combination of poignancy and buffoonery is why the 1997 film, set in the steel town of Sheffield, England, was such a hit. And it’s also why the musical version – now playing at the Arvada Center – continues in that tradition, with the musical numbers allowing for even greater extremes of emotion and character exploration.Not to lay it on too thick: “The Full Monty” is, above all, a comedy. But both Simon Beaufoy – who wrote the original screenplay – and Tony award-winning American playwright Terrence McNally – who wrote the book for the musical – understand that characters are intrinsically funnier if we care about them. In the musical, the action takes place in another depressed steel town: Buffalo, New York. In the wake of massive layoffs, the town’s out-of-work and emasculated men are casting about for ways to cope, with the options ranging from suicide to working security at Wal-Mart. The suggestion is that there’s not much to distinguish the two.

But Jerry Lukowski (Jim Newman) has a better idea, drawn from observations made during a local appearance by Chippendales-style dancers: Why not make a killing by exploiting the local female population’s desire for such entertainment? Later, he raises the stakes by announcing he and his cohorts will go “the full monty” – in other words, they’ll take it ALL off.Time dictates that Reg is able to speedily convince five other steel workers that donning G-strings and cavorting in front of Buffalo’s women is a logical course of action. The ball gets rolling, aided in part by Jerry’s son Nathan (Kyle Hanson) – who he’s trying to maintain relations with despite problems with his ex – and Jeanette (Wendelin Harston), a wise-cracking, piano playing showbiz has-been who’s in on the gig simply because it beats sitting home.With Jerry as indefatigable cheerleader, the men work on their act. For dancing instruction, they track down their former boss Harold (Brian Kelly), a man so fixated on pleasing his pleasure-hungry wife that he dare not tell her he was laid off six months ago. Jerry’s best friend is Dave Bukatinsky (Eric Leviton), a fire-plug of a man who, at one point, sings a song to his expansive belly.Another member, Malcolm (Alan Swadener), is interrupted while attempting suicide and recruited. And through a hilarious audition process, the troupe adds the talents of “Horse” (Milton Craig Nealy) and Ethan (Scott McLean). Horse is a genuine talent, a real old-time song-and-dance man, while Ethan’s sole attribute is that he’s extremely well-endowed.The Arvada Center’s production of “The Full Monty” is directed by Rod Lansberry with a lot of heart and skill. Lansberry takes the material and pushes it just to the edge of the envelope – and perhaps slightly beyond for the audiences that typically frequent Arvada Center shows. The musical is outrageous and bawdy at the same time Lansberry seems to know just when to reel it in before it starts offending the more delicate among us. It played to a full house on opening night Tuesday and no doubt will continue a strong run.The show features veteran actors both local and from New York and Hollywood. Exceptionally well cast, “The Full Monty” is a top-notch production that suffers only slightly from some overly fussy set design. Theatre-goers, however, may wish to leave the kids behind for this one.

Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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