THEATER REVIEW - ‘The Full Monty’ - Produced by: John W. Engeman Theater – Northport
Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur
No one seems to know the exact origin of the British term ‘The Full Monty,’ but we’re certainly aware of what it defines in modern parlance. It means ‘whole hog’ … ‘all the way’ … ‘the whole enchilada’ … ‘the works!’
Accordingly, when Terrence McNally wrote the book for David Yazbeck’s musical about six destitute steel workers determined to raise money by putting on the mother of all male strip shows, he wisely stuck with the tantalizing title of the 1997 film from which the production is derived … and New York voyeurs showed up in droves to take a peek.
As it turns out, the show, which opened at Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre in October of 2000, had more going for it than just a suggestive moniker. Indeed, the musical garnered ten Tony nominations … a dozen Drama Desk nods … and ran for 800-plus performances. Not since ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ had such a provocative ‘come-on’ lit up The Great White Way.
Okay … maybe theatergoers in the mid-Long Island area don’t constitute quite the same naughty audience that flocked to sold-out performances of ‘The Full Monty’ on Broadway for two years. Still, it was apparent from last weekend’s Engeman opening of the risqué musical, that we locals can hardly be labeled a bunch of prudes. The titters, belly laughs, and catcalls were all there, and they rocked the jammed playhouse from curtain to curtain.
The concept of this show is a good one: It is built around six men’s convictions that their wives’ mania following a Chipendales performance, would be nothing compared to what the out-of-work sextet could generate … if they staged a similar beefcake production, but topped it off with … get the digitalis … a Full Monty climactic number!
Of course, there are some things even legitimate theater can’t get away with (apologies for the ‘dangling preposition’), but Director Keith Andrews keeps his six leading men in check just barely (there I go again) enough to dissuade the Northport cops down the street from raiding the joint.
The half-dozen would-be ‘eye candy’ exhibitionists turn-in some surprisingly dazzling, and dramatically empathetic performances along the way, and the actors deserve to be mentioned here. They are: Brent Diroma (as Jerry Lukowski), Ryan Dunkin (Dave Bukatinsky), Peter Hilton (Harold Nichols), Spencer Glass (Malcolm MacGregor), Noah Bridgestock (Ethan Girard), and Milton Nealy (playing ‘Horse’ Simmons).
‘The Full Monty’ contains obvious overtones of Mel Brooks’ classic ‘The Producers’ so it’s hardly coincidental that Richard T. Dolce, The Engeman’s Producing Artistic Director, tapped veteran dance arranger Antoinette DiPietropolo … who choreographed ‘Producers’ … to fill that vital function in this show. Comedy in dance must be an extremely difficult effect to achieve (Donald O’Connor and Danny Kaye were the masters, for my money) but DiPietropolo’s work is right up there with the best we’re likely to see in any genre. She created perfect synchronization throughout between her amateur ‘artistes’ and Musical Director Andrew Haile Austin.
‘The Full Monty’ has scheduled a fairly long run (it closes on March 5th) but the suggestion here is that tickets ($71.- $76.) be purchased well in advance. This is one of those productions that will almost surely fall into the ‘sleeper’ category … a show you definitely won’t want to have heard about from your neighbor once it’s over. That would be a shame! You’d lose out on show-stopping numbers by Nealy (‘Horse’) and Diane Findlay (who excels as piano-playing ‘Jeanette Burmeister’).
As for likely sources of the expression ‘Full Monty’ … most attribute the term in some way to British Field Marshal ‘Monty’ Montgomery … others favor English clothier Montague Burton … and so forth. It’s my theory, however, that the phrase stems from betting the entire pot in the old card game, ‘Monte.’ At any rate, don’t miss this bang-up show. It’s got some of the funniest sight gags you’ll ever see.
Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of a dozen novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His newest book, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between the late Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s recently completed thriller, THE SOUTHWICK INCIDENT, is due next month. It involves a radicalized Yale student and his CIA pursuers. Mr. Ladouceur’s revealing website is www.JebsBooks.com