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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Full Monty

If you wanna be in show business, you should be spayed first. — Jeanette
Elaine Stritch
Elaine Stritch in The Full Monty
The 1997 British film The Full Monty was an unexpected hit. In 2001, a moderately successful musical version opened on Broadway. The Paper Mill Playhouse revival is pepped up considerably by the presence of the incomparable Elaine Stritch. The veteran trooper adds snap and plenty of sass to the story about how six Buffalo, New York steel-workers after being laid off, figure out a way to earn some fast money.

In light of the current recession, there is no denying the continuing topicality or timeliness of the plot. The show has also retained its heart as well as kept its other vital parts in the right place.

After watching the town go gaga for a professional touring male strip show, the desperate workers decide to perform a show of their own. This leads not only to problems with their personal and family lives, but with the obstacles that rise (no pun intended) or don't rise up to the occasion. The unexpected fusion and confusion of sexual identities also adds to the fun. The musical possibilities inherent in the plot are obvious, as is the potential for physical comedy. Except for changing the locale from the U.K to the U.S.A, playwright Terrence McNally's musical version is faithful to the plot contrivances and sentiments of Simon Beaufoy's screenplay.

If it does nothing more, the eclectic pop, rock, jazz score by David Yazbek is affectionately committed to serving its cause. And while none of the six principal men have great singing voices, they do punch out their songs effectively. Notwithstanding Stritch's own inimitable style of delivery, the other women are more effective if also more purposely abrasive.

Wayne Wilcox is excellent as Jerry, a virile and decent chap who will do anything to keep from losing his joint custody of his son (winningly played by Luke Marcus Rosen). Considering his up-staging girth, Joe Coots gets the most comic points as the self-conscious Dave Bukatinsky. Although none of the performers have much opportunity to be more than one-dimensional, Jason Babinsky, as the miss-stepping and mishap-prone Ethan and Allen E. Read, as momma's boy Malcolm, offer an endearing romantic jolt to the proceedings.

Senior hoofer Milton Craig Nealy earns the audience enthusiastic response to his insinuatingly sexy show-stopper "Big Black Man. ," The other recruits also have what it takes to round out this unlikely, but likable, chorus line. Michael Ruppert is also fine as Harold Nichols, their former plant supervisor who has also lost his job and is now taking ballroom dancing lessons with his wife. The boys' animosity towards him changes when he agrees to not only secretly show them some moves but to join them.

If the intent of the show is to highlight the sensitivities of these men, it also could be criticized for being insulting to women in general. Be that as it may, Jenn Collela, as Dave's wife Georgie and Michele Ragusa, as Harold's clueless wife Vicki, belt out their respective anthems with gusto.

But no one offers much in the way of competition to Stritch's Jeanette, the tough-as-leather show biz veteran who is recruited to work with the men as a no-nonsense director and accompanist. You don't need to ask if the Tony award-winning scene-stealing Stritch (between cabaret engagements), gets to reprise (by popular demand) "Jeanette's Showbiz Number. "

While director Mark S. Hoebee gleefully ignores whatever might be construed as character development, he knows when to make the most of the show's moving parts, particularly those of hunky Xander Chauncey, as male stripper Buddy "Keno" Walsh. Choreographer Denis Jones is to be commended for creating the next-to-impossible but never improbable routines for this six-pack of out-of-work laborers. The scene in which the boys discover they can dance if they mimic the moves that players make on a basketball court is beautifully staged. The slick lighting effects by Charlie Morrison effectively enhance the original scenic (John Arnone) and costumes (Robert Morgan) designs.

As for that full Monty, it's out there, but your eyes have to focus faster than the speed of light. It's all in good fun even if the fun is thrust upon us.

The Full Monty
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Terrence McNally
Directed by Mark S. Hoebee

Cast: Jenn Colella (Georgie Bukatinsky), Xander Chauncey (Buddy "Keno" Walsh), Rob Richardson (Reg Willoughby), Brian Ray Norris ( Marty),Wayne Wilcox (Jerry Lukowski),Joe Coots (Dave Bukatinsky), Allen E. Read (Malcolm Macgregor), Jason Babinsky (Ethan Girard), Alex Maizus*/ Luke Marcus Rosen* (Nathan Lukowski), Holly Davis (Susan Hershey), Rheaume Crenshaw (Joanie Lish), Jacqueline Colmer (Estelle Genovese), Kelly Sullivan (Pam Lukowski), Timothy Smith (Teddy Slaughter), Susan J. Jacks (Molly Macgregor), Mark Fisher (Dance Instructor), Michael Rupert (Harold Nichols), Michele Ragusa (Vicki Nichols), Elaine Stritch (Jeanette Burmeister), Milton Craig Nealy (Noah "Horse" T. Simmons), Jerome Lucas Harmann, Rob Richardson (Repo Men), Jerome Lucas Harmann (Police Sergeant), Mark Fisher (Minister), Brian Ray Norris(Tony Giordano)
Ensemble: Xander Chauncey, Jacqueline Colmer, Rheaume Crenshaw, Holly Davis, Mark Fisher, Jerome Lucas Harmann, Susan J. Jacks, Brian Ray Norris, Rob Richardson, Timothy Smith Original Scenic Design: John Arnone
Original Costume Design: Robert Morgan
Lighting Design: Charlie Morrison
Sound Design: Randy Hansen
Set Coordination and Additional Design: Rob Bissinger
Costume Coordination and Additional Design: Randall Klein
Music Director: Tom Helm
Choreography: Denis Jones
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes including intermission
Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive, Millburn, New Jersey
(973) 376 — 4343
Performances: Wednesdays at 7:30 PM, Thursdays at 2 PM & 7:30 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM & 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM & 7:30 PM.
Prices: ($25 - $92; Student rush $20)
Opened 06/14/09 Ends 07/12/09
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 06/14/09
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Overture/ Orchestra
  • Scrap /Jerry, Dave, Malcolm, Ethan, Reg, and the Men
  • It's a Woman's World / Georgie, Susan, Joanie, and Estelle
  • Man /Jerry and Dave
  • Big-Ass Rock / Jerry, Dave, and Malcolm
  • Life With Harold /Vicki
  • Big Black Man / Horse and the Guys
  • You Rule My World /Dave and Harold
  • MichaelJordan's Ball / The Guys
Act Two
  • Entr'acte / Orchestra
  • Jeanette's Showbiz Number /Jeanette and the Guys
  • Breeze Off The River /Jerry
  • The Goods / The Guys and the Women
  • You Walk With Me / Malcolm and Ethan
  • You Rule My Word (reprise) / Georgie and Vicki
  • Let It Go / The Guys and the Company

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