The Full Monty is one of the West End's bare necessities!

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FRESH from its success on Broadway and with several original cast members, The Full Monty thrusts its way onto the West End stage.

Like the film, on which it is based, it follows the fortunes of two friends whose recent job losses have changed their lives. For Dave (John Ellison Conlee), loss of self-esteem threatens his marriage to the dynamic Georgie, while for Jerry (Jarrod Emick), it's the very prospect of losing the son he adores through lack of money.

A chance encounter with a male stripper, however, sows the seeds for change. The two become six and the fun begins.

Unlike the film, though, the stage version is set in the American town of Buffalo and is, above all else, a musical. But don't let this deter you. The music is a bonus and adds greatly to a story packed with human emotion.

'You Walk With Me', sung by Malcolm and Ethan at the funeral of Malcolm's mother, when their 'coming out' is quietly accepted by the rest of the guys, is particularly moving; while 'Big Black Man', which introduces the ageing 'Horse', has the audiences in stitches.

A further bonus is the casting of the adorable veteran actress Dora Bryan in the role of Jeanette Burmeister who simply turns up, complete with piano, at the guys' auditions. Her penchant for name dropping - Frank Sinatra and Pat Boone are but two - is matched only by the number of times the guys drop their pants.

While not appealing to everyone, the delicate subject matter is handled in such a way that it never offends. The scene where the guys take off their clothes in front of each other for the first time is hilarious yet, at the same time, reassuringly familiar - for there are, I'm sure, few among us who don't have a hang-up or two about their own bodies.

In fact, the clever weave of humour and pathos is such that I found myself really caring about the characters; rooting for their success in pulling off The Full Monty as much for their sakes as for the spectacle itself. Slick, loud and very, very funny, The Full Monty does all that it promises.

My advice - to drop everything and go along to the Prince of Wales Theatre for a really great night out.

The Full Monty. Starring: John Ellison Conlee (Dave); Jason Danieley (Malcolm); Andre de Shields (Noah 'Horse'); Jarrod Emick (Jerry); Romain Fruge (Ethan); Marcus Neville (Harold); Dora Bryan (Jeanette).
Directed by Jack O'Brien; Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell; Music and lyrics by David Yazbek