Review by David Munro
AFTER last weeks delightful Merry
Widow, The Full Monty was a bit of a cultural shock.
There is a world of difference between La Belle Epoch and modern
day Buffalo, New York. Nevertheless, there is a connection in
that both deal with the redemption through love, although, in
The Full Monty, it is somewhat understated no lush
waltzes, but rather gritty post rock tunes, by David Yazbek, which
underscore the frustration of men trying to achieve self fulfilment
in the grip of a financial depression.
It was also a shock to find that the setting had been moved
from Sheffield to New York City.
While this might be acceptable on Broadway, surely, for London,
the original locale could have been restored.
However, this is a minor cavil for despite this, the whole show
still works. Depression in the States is not so very different
from that in Sheffield, and with the excellent cast that this
production has, one very soon becomes involved in the action so
that the background seems to matter nothing.
And an excellent cast it is. The story, as most people must know,
concerns the efforts of six men to raise money for their wives
and families by performing a strip act.
The act itself is the culmination of the evening which sets out
to show the way in which being out of work affects decent men
and their women and what it takes to force them into accepting
that their potential humiliation is the only thing between despair
The men are ordinary blokes and the cast portray them with understanding
It is perhaps unfair to single out any particular actor, as
the whole cast perform as a team, but there is no denying that
Tim Rogers ,as Jerry, divorced father and prime mover of the scheme
to strip, is outstanding.
He sings and dances with grace and precision and his scenes with
his ex-wife and son Caroline Fox and Joe Gunn are
pitched just right, showing the desperation that being out of
work and unable to provide causes; a very moving performance.
He is, however, only one of the team; Sion Lloyd, as his best
mate, Dave, who shows that being fat is no drawback for a stripper,
Alex Gaumond and Nigel Francis, as Malcolm and Ethan, who find
respite from penury in their affection for each other, Gareth
Snook, as Harold, their ex-boss, who becomes the teams choreographer,
and last but by no means least, David Danns, as Horse, the arthritic
black man who rounds up the team.
All are characters and are so well played you leave the theatre
with the feeling that you know them personally.
The girls, wives and ex-wives, while motivating the plot, are
perhaps lesser figures in the story.
They are still just as well portrayed by Melissa Jacques, Cheryl
McAvoy Stevie Tate-Bauer, Kate Burell and Rachel Tucker, even
if their characters are not so well defined as those of the men.
And then there is Jeannette; she and Keno, a professional stripper,
have been added to the story by the dramatist, Terrence McNally.
Jeanette (Jacqueline Clarke) is a pianist, who appears, apparently
from nowhere, to help the men prepare their act and to give them
a gloss of show-business.
She is both bizarre and warmly human and Miss Clarke makes a
real character of her at times almost stealing the show from the
Michael Taibi also creates a real character, as Keno, the stripper
who knocks Jerry down when his masculinity is impugned with the
remark, 'Fairies: one, Christians: zero'.
The show is well directed and paced, by Madeleine Loftin and
Jack OBrien, on John Arnone's minimal set comprising mainly
of moveable screens, which hurry the action along.
As does Jerry Mitchells choreography, re-created by Tara
Wilkinson, which is an excellent example of art concealing art
in the manner he makes the men appear inept, while at the same
time executing intricate routines. A joy to behold.
While the plot is faithful to the film, the transition to a musical
is so adept as to be painless.
I did not see the West End production, so I have no comparisons
to make, but, on the strength of last nights performance,
I take my G-string off in salute to a hard working cast who gave
me at least two and a half hours of unalloyed pleasure
The Fully Monty in fact!
The Full Monty, By Terrence McNally Music & Lyrics by
David Yazbek. Director, Jack OBrien / Madeleine Loftin;
Designer, John Arnone; Costumes, Robert Morgan; Lighting, Howell
Binkley; Sound, Mike Walker.
Choreographer, Jerry Mitchell / Tara Wilkinson.
Musical Director, Ted Sperling.
CAST: Jacqueline Clarke; David Danns; Caroline Fox; Nigel Francis;
Alex Gaumond; Joe Gunn; Melissa Jaques; Tommy Knoght; Sion Lloyd;
Cheryl McAvoy; Edward Moloney; Tim Rogers; Gareth Snook; Eithne
Brown; Nicola Bryan; Kate Burell; Simon Greenhill; Ralph Jackman;
Dean Maynard; Kristopher Holmes; Tom Sutton; Michael Taibi; Stevie
Tate Bauer; Rachel Tucker; Dennis Victory; Ian Waller.
Produced by Sacha Brooks, by special arrangement with Searchlight
Pictures, Lindsay Law and Thomas Hull.
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG.
Tuesday, May 4 - Saturday, May 15
Evenings: Mon - Sat 7.30pm; Matinees Thurs & Sat 2.30pm.
Box Office 0870 060 1827.