Will They Go ‘The Full Monty’?
Six men must decide whether or not to take off all their clothes (i.e. go “the full monty”) in front their friends and family in their mid-size town. This is the central dilemma of Capital Playhouse’s current musical, The Full Monty, and the decision each of the six men cast as principal roles had to make as they thought about staging the 2000 Broadway musical here in little ol’ Olympia.
The musical is based on the 1997 British film by the same title. While stripping all the way seems to be the primary decision on the surface, underneath the characters are dealing with themes such as insecurity, the demoralization of unemployment, masculinity, and how to keep your commitments to your friends, family, and partner.
I found the book (musical theater jargon for script), written by Terrence McNally, underwhelming and full of early 2000’s isn’t-it-funny-that-straight-man-is-saying-gay-things style of jokes. While that can be annoying, the show’s leads Patrick Wigren and Chris Serface play the subtle, awkward, but very clearly homo-erotic moments of the “bromance” with great skill.
The musical score, by lesser-known David Yazbek, is what really stood out in this performance. The sound is jazzy. It has a punchy horn section and musical runs that are difficult and sound thrilling when mostly nailed by the strong Capital Playhouse pit orchestra under the direction of Troy Arnold.
Performances were mostly solid. The story centers on Wigren’s character Jerry Lukowski, his struggle to make ends meet, and his long-time friendship with Dave Bukatinsky (Chris Serface), which together sets up the premise of organizing the male strip-tease show of ex-steel mill workers in Buffalo, New York. Wigren’s vocal range and amazing energy supports him well in the rowdy numbers. His voice is that of the perfect musical lead and he truly shines in his soft lullaby to his son Nathan (Clark Hallum). Not only does Wigren hold his own on stage all night but also his supporting actors fill out the over-all strong male cast. Bruce Haasal (to whom I could listen sing all night long) delivers his usual strong Capital Playhouse performance.
The men aren’t the only ones in the cast that give a strong group sound and perform with the energy of actors who look like they are truly having fun. The women too have a blend and girl-group energy that really works. Though Georgie Bukatinsky, played by Christie Murphy has only a few moments in the show, each one left me wanting more of her vocal belts and incredible characterization of a upstate New York, blue-collar town, working-girl wife of the late 1990’s. Additionally, Gwen Haw (incredible as Vicki Nichols) gives a hilarious vocal scatting number in the second act that is not to be missed.
Beyond vocal talent, what the cast of The Full Monty really does best in this run is embody the humanity of each character. More than once I found myself touched by the tenderness of a moment on stage. And with a storyline that is easy to make more humorous than sentimental – these moments were well handled and meaningful.
And, of course by this point in the review you are thinking: Enough of this “tenderness” and “vocal talent” shit…do they actually go all the way?! And just as the women of Buffalo, NY had to buy their own tickets to see their loved ones bare it all – so will you Olympia. So will you.
The Full Monty runs May 16-19 and 23-26 at 7:30pm. Matinees are at 2:00pm on May 20th and 27th. Tickets are available for purchase online (www.capitalplayhouse.com) or you may call the box office at (360) 943-2744.