The male vocalists come up short (pun Intended) in the current production The Full Monty, playing June 7-10, 14-17, and 21-21 at Raleigh Little Theatre. Jon Karnofsky, who plays Jerry Lukowski, and James Ilsley, who portrays Lukowski’s best friend and fellow out-of-work steelworker Dave Bukatinsky, struggle to meet the modest vocal demands of their roles; and so do the other male members of the cast. In fact, only RLT diva Rose Martin, who puts pizzazz into her performance as Georgie Bukatinsky, really has the pipes for her role, although Marty Smith, who plays as aging but still spunky rehearsal accompanist Jeanette Burmeister does an adequate job on “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number.”
But when it comes to the comedy part of this musical comedy, Jon Karnofsky is amusing as Jerry, an unemployed divorced husband struggling to pay child support for and maintain his fatherly relationship with his teenage son Nathan (Dillon Rust); and James Ilsley has his moments as Dave, whose growing depression over his lack of a job is creating problems in the bedroom. (One of the big question marks of this production is, how and why does Ilsley, who uses padding throughout the show to play the overweight Dave, suddenly shed 30 or 40 lbs. in the show’s climactic striptease number.)
Out of work indefinitely (18 months and counting), barely scraping by on their skinny United Steelworkers strike benefit checks, and increasingly desperate for funds, Jerry and Dave and the four other financially strapped Buffalo, NY steel-mill employees — Timothy Corbett as former plant executive Harold Nichols and Jaret Preston, Matthew-Jason Willis, and Warren Keyes as steelworkers Malcolm MacGregor, Ethan Girard, and Noah T. “Horse” Simmons, respectively — form a male striptease group, which they dub Hot Metal, and set themselves off from the slicker, slimmer, more physically fit Chippendales by going “the full monty” — getting nekkid as proverbial jaybirds, in front of God and just about everyone they know — in Tony’s strip club. Finding six guys who’ll strip down and prance around in skimpy red thongs, and then bare all in the backlit climax (pun intended) of the striptease sequence is a tough assignment for director Haskell Fitz-Simons. It’s just too bad that the male cast cannot sing as well as they can cut the fool.
Timothy Corbett amuses as Harold the former stuffed-shirt boss who r eally must shed his inhibitions to play his part in Hot Metal, and Allison Lawrence is funny as his spendthrift wife Vicki. Jaret Preston and Matthew-Jason Willis tastefully handle the boy-meets-boy romance between Malcolm and Ethan, and Warren Keyes is a hoot as Horse.
Rose Martin has some rib-tickling moments as the uninhibited Georgie, Marty Smith is quick with a quip as vinegary but good-hearted showbiz veteran Jeanette, and Dillon Rust is cute as the precocious Nathan. Eric Morales adds a cheeky cameo (pun Intended) as gay male stripper Buddy “Keno” Walsh, and Kristen McCabe is good as concerned ex-wife Pam Lukowski.
Director Haskell Fitz-Simons and choreographer Freddie-Lee Heath stage The Full Monty with the requisite chutzpah, and musical director Julie Florin and the RLT orchestra provide energetic instrumental support. The cumbersome multilevel set devised by scenic and lighting designer Rick Young sometimes proves to be an impediment to the action; but the contributions of costume designer Su Jung, properties master Jon Byers, and sound designer Becca Easley all enhance this fundamentally flawed production.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents The Full Monty Thursday-Saturday, June 14-16 and 21-23, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, June 10, 17, and 24, at 3 p.m. in RLT’s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $17 Thursday, Friday, and Sunday ($13 students and seniors 62+) and $21 Saturday (all seats). 919/821-3111. Note: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/performances/fullmonty.html [inactive 7/07]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/Show.asp?id=10302. Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119164/.
Note: For a Letter to the Editor concerning this review, click here.