Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
The Full Monty began life in 1997 as a low budget film that soon gained both critical and audience popularity and even an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Like the film, the musical adaptation follows the attempts of six out-of-work factory workers to become male strippers in an effort to both regain their self-esteem and make some much-needed cash. Although the setting has been wisely switched from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, to better appeal to American audiences, the story retains its blue-collar sensibilities and humor, and is aided by solid and well-suited songs and dialogue. The show was nominated for ten Tony Awards in 2001, but was undeservedly shut out by The Producers.
The book by Terrence McNally (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime) keeps a lot of what worked best in the movie, adds a few new colorful characters, and presents the story in a straightforward manner. The show is easy to relate to, and has many universal themes. In addition, it has many very strong comedic moments, as well as some touching heartfelt ones.
The tuneful score by David Yazbek (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) contains strong character songs for each lead and many supporting players, and is written in a middle-class pop style that is likewise perfectly apt for the story. Songs such as "Big Ass Rock," "Big Black Man" and "The Goods" have catchy tunes and hilarious lyrics, and "You Walk With Me" is a beautifully crafted ballad. The funky finale "Let It Go" is the perfect way to cap this fun show.
At Human Race, director Joe Deer captures the blue collar sensibility of the piece and emphasizes its comedy. He also supplies smooth scene transitions and effective blocking. At the performance reviewed, it took a few scenes for the energy and pace to reach the needed level, but that will likely be fixed when the show has a few more performances under its belt. The choreography by Dionysia Williams is reminiscent of the original Broadway work by Jerry Mitchell, but contains some effective original touches as well. Sean Michael Flowers leads a talented seven piece band.
The Full Monty is an ensemble show and provides many opportunities for its cast members. As Jerry, Christopher deProphetis takes a bit of time to settle into the role, but sings well and captures the character's desperation. Matt Welsh, as Dave, displays great comic timing and delivery, as well as solid vocals, and has a kind of George Costanza demeanor about him. Jamie Cordes is a perfect fit for the formal and stoic Harold, and is a first-rate singer. As Horse, Richard E. Waits scores with his deadpan deliver of many humorous lines, and sings and dances well throughout. As the Donald O'Connor wannabe Ethan, Josh Kenney seems a bit over-the-top with some acting choices, but does a great job with much of the physical comedy of the role and in leading the killer final song. The best of the six male leads is Matt Kopec as momma's boy Malcolm, showing off a lovable goofy persona, a beautiful singing voice, and wonderful stage presence.
Leslie Goddard is an energetic Georgie, and Sonia Perez is spunky and endearing as Vicki. Deb Colvin-Tener infuses some fun showbiz razzmatazz and skills as Jeanette, even if she plays too young for the elderly role. Peanut Edmonson is solid as Jerry's son Nathan. The versatile ensemble does a fine job throughout the show.
The detailed and resourceful set by Dick Block is able to capture the many locales despite the small stage space, and the lighting, including the final effect, by John Rensel is solid and theatrical as usual. The costumes by Janet G. Powell are apt and varied. Unfortunately, the volume of the band overpowered the singers quite often, but Jay Brunner's sound design is solid and clear otherwise.
The Full Monty has been produced quite often in the Cincinnati/Dayton area, and the Human Race Theatre Company production, though not perfect, is a solid presentation and a great way to kick-off the 2015-2016 musical season in Dayton. The Full Monty continues at the Human Race Theatre Company through October 4, 2015. Visit www.humanracetheatre.org for tickets and more information.
-- Scott Cain