The North American Tour of The Full Monty, now delighting open-minded audiences nightly at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium courtesy of Broadway Series South, is funny and foul-mouthed and moving despite its raunchy vocabulary and sometimes sordid subject matter. Based on a low-budget 1997 British comedy that became a surprise hit on both sides of the Atlantic, the gritty Broadway musical-comedy The Full Monty features a cheeky book by four-time Tony® Award winner Terrence McNally (Love! Valor! Compassion!) and sprightly music and lyrics by Broadway newcomer David Yazbek.
McNally transposes the story from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, and broadens and deepens the characters of Jerry Lukowski (Christian Anderson), the smart-mouthed deadbeat dad; Dave Bukatinsky (Michael J. Todaro), the seriously depressed and virtually impotent overweight husband; Harold Nichols (Robert Westenberg), the desperate unemployed corporate executive; Malcolm MacGregor (Ryan Perry superbly subbing Tuesday night for Leo Daignault), the lonely mama's boy; Ethan Girard (Christopher J. Hanke), the gay blade determined to copy Gene Kelly's wall-walking stunt from Singin' in the Rain — even if it kills him; and Noah T. "Horse" Simmons (Cleavant Derricks), the aging (and presumably well-endowed) hoofer of African ancestry.
Yazbek gives the five financially strapped out-of-work steel workers and their former boss, "Horrible Harold," some soaring melodies for the show's quiet, introspective moments and some uproarious raunch for their bump-and-grind numbers. (And, yes, some do bare all — but they are backlit — in the climactic striptease number.) Indeed, Yazbek's spirited score provides a pick-me-up whenever there's a pause in the action. A small orchestra, under the direction of August Eriksmoen, provided spirited accompaniment Tuesday night.
Christian Anderson is terrific as the insensitive and irresponsible Jerry, who finally learns how to be a father. Michael J. Todaro is highly amusing as roly-poly Dave. Robert Westenberg cuts a fine figure as Horrible Harold, the company efficiency expert who helps management justify downsizing its workers, never realizing that he will follow his former underlings out the door.
Tuesday night, Ryan Perry contributed a charming portrayal of the suicidal Malcolm. Christopher Hanke provided comic relief as Ethan by repeatedly charging full speed headfirst into — but never up — a brick wall. And Cleavant Derricks stole the show with the funky moves he busted as Horse.
Jane Connell rivaled Cleavant Derricks as The Full Monty's resident scene-stealer. Her hilarious portrait of the steelworkers-turned-strippers' gritty, seen-it-all rehearsal pianist was a real crowd-pleaser. Jennifer Naimo and Sarah Zimmerman gave spunky performances as Dave's love-starved wife, Georgie, and Jerry's long-suffering entrepreneurial ex-wife, Pam, respectively. Evan Daves, who alternates with Aaron Nutter, was cute as feckless Jerry's exasperated but loving son, Nathan. Christine Hudman was very funny as Harold's shopaholic wife, Vicki; Paige DuBois Wolff was a scream as hot-to-trot Estelle Genovese; Dan LoBuono was a stitch as big-headed male stripper Buddy "Keno" Walsh; and Michael Halling was good as Pam's new boyfriend, Teddy Slaughter.
The Full Monty opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City on October 26, 2000, and closed Sept. 1, 2002. It received 10 Tony® Award nominations, including those for Best Musical, Best Director (Jack O'Brien), Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell), Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Book.
Original director Jack O'Brien and original choreographer Jerry Mitchell also work their theatrical magic to energize the current North American tour produced by Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, and Albert Nocciolino. This highly entertaining musical also features cleverly constructed corrugated-steel sets by John Arnone, snazzy costumes by Robert Morgan, and artful lighting by Howell Binkley.
Sound designers Tom Clark and Nevin Steinberg struggled during the early production numbers opening night, but those minor glitches should be fixed by now. In any case, Tuesday night's performance received a prolonged and hearty standing ovation at its conclusion.
Broadway Series South presents The Full Monty Thursday-Friday, March 13-14, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 15, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 16, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $16-$66. 919/834-4000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/721097 [inactive 12/03]. Groups of 20+: 919/231-4575 or email@example.com. http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2002-2003/broadway.html#monty [inactive 4/04] or http://www.thefullmonty.com/tour/index.htm [inactive 7/03]. Official movie site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/fullmonty/ [inactive 9/03].