Review: The Full Monty
by Gina Hamilton
"The Full Monty", which opened Thursday at the Maine State Music Theatre on the Bowdoin campus in Brunswick, was adapted from a 1997 British film set in Sheffield, England. The musical version was neatly transposed to Buffalo, New York, and both featured a gang of out-of-work and out-of-luck steelworkers, who are rapidly also running out of hope.
The play, like the movie, isn't all sweetness and light and male stripping; it deals with difficult themes of working class hopelessness, the reversal of the roles of men and women, and how difficult that reversal can be for some, homosexuality and homophobia, obesity, depression, suicide, marital problems, and the difficulty of securing fathers' rights after a marriage breaks up.
Jerry Lukowski (Peter Matthew Smith) is unemployed along with all the other men when the steel mills shut down, and is being hounded by his estranged wife Pam (Amanda Rose) for child support for their young teen son, Nathan (Austin Nedrow). At the same time, a group of male strippers have sold out the local theater, and all the women in town go to see the show. The women are mostly working, and this hurts the pride of Jerry and Dave Butkantinsky (Jayson Elliot) whose wife Georgie (Charis Leos) has organized the affair. Jerry gets the idea that the women, who are paying top dollar to see the gay Chippendale dancers, would pay the same or more to see "real men" perform.
Dave is overweight and very reluctant, but he agrees to help find other men who will perform. The first recruited is Malcolm MacGregor (Chuck Ragsdale), who is in the closet and lives with his dying mother. He's been retained as the night watchman, but can get them into the deserted factory to practice. Malcolm is found when he is trying to commit suicide in his car; in a ballad reminiscent of a James Taylor song, Jerry and Dave suggest that they could do it more easily for him, and jolly him out of his depression. With friends for the first time in his life, Malcolm's life takes a turn for the better.
Harold Nichols, their former supervisor, joins them as dance coach, played by Jonathan Rayson. He has been let go too, and has been lying to his wife Vicki (Laurie Wells) about it for six months. The dancers gain Noah (Horse) T. Simpson, played by Kingsley Leggs, and Ethan Girard, played by Michael J. Austin, and accompanied on the piano by Jeanette Burmeister (Sandy Rosenberg), they finally convince Dave to dance with them.
Through the experience, the men learn a few valuable lessons -- that women and children are resilient and can astonish them with their support; that being gay isn't something to be feared, but love is something to celebrate; and that confidence trumps competence any day of the week. When they finally arrive on stage, their wives and girlfriends and even exes are in the audience screaming encouragement. Will the men go the full monty and take it all off? Only the magic of live theater can answer that question.
The Full Monty will be playing at the Pickard Theater through June 20th. For tickets and times, visit www.msmt.org.