“Chippendales They Are Not”: Another Full Monty Review

Ken AshfordLocal InterestLeave a Comment

Salisbury Post:

By Sarah Hall

Bp84223If the six men starring in the musical "The Full Monty" were looking for more exposure with the Triad theatre scene when they auditioned, they certainly got what they were looking for.

This is the first-ever collaboration between The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem and Community Theatre of Greensboro. They say the joint effort came about in order to have a bigger pool of talent and helpers necessary to put on a musical in the summer, when fewer people are available.

I suspect they may also have needed to cast their net over a wider area to find men willing to shed their inhibitions — and everything else — in front of their friends, family and the general public.

[Note to Ms. Hall:  Actually, this is not true.  Male turnout for auditions was actually pretty good, for a summer musical.  It was women that failed to show up.  Go figure.]

The phrase "the full monty," meaning "the full amount," can be traced to the North of England, but its exact origin is unsure. Some say it comes from Field Marshall Montgomery, known by his troops as Monty, famous for his long-winded military briefings during World War II. Others believe the phrase originated in Leeds with Montague Burton tailoring. They produced three-piece de-mob suits at the conclusion of World War II, promising to outfit soldiers in "a full monty."

But thanks to the very successful British film of the ’90s also called "The Fully Monty," that phrase will now always be associated with men willing to remove every stitch of clothing.

The movie was set in Sheffield, England. The 2000 Broadway musical adaptation keeps the same plot line, but the setting has been moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where striking steelworkers are desperate for money to support their families.

Jerry Lukowski is behind on child support payments. When a Chippendale-like male revue comes to town, packing in a huge audience of women at $50 per ticket, that gives Jerry an idea. He recruits five other down-on-their-luck workers to put on their own show.

Chippendales they are not.

What we have is a clumsy assortment of middle-aged men, some balding, some overweight, one pigeon-toed and skinny and one with an arthritic hip. But in order to attract an audience, they promise what not even the scantily-clad Chippendales offer. They promise the full monty.

When LifeStyle editor Katie Scarvey and I received an invitation to attend a preview performance, we jumped at … er, I mean, we politely accepted. Not that we’re personally interested in that type of entertainment, mind you. As journalists and arts reviewers, it’s our duty to check out what’s going on so we can inform you, the public.

There was open seating, so we chose our own seats. The center of the fourth row seemed about right, so as not to miss anything we might need to report.

But this was community theatre, after all. How risqué could it be? I expected they would probably need to tone it down from the Broadway version to avoid offending patrons and sponsors.

Right before the show began, after reminding everyone to silence their cell phones, we were told, "This is not The Little Monty, this is not The Half Monty. This is The Full Monty. This is not ‘The Sound of Music.’ " Thus we were warned. Anyone who had wandered in by mistake would be given a refund.

For some reason, I was still expecting it to be pretty tame. So imagine my surprise in the opening scene when a man, dressed in a business suit, stripped down to everything but shoes, socks and a strategically-placed briefcase.

"Oh my," I said to Katie.

While definitely for mature audiences, the show is raunchy without being erotic. You can’t help but admire these characters and hope for their success, even if their goal is to remove all of their clothing without making fools of themselves.

We watch the characters struggle to overcome insecurities and gain confidence, some getting cold feet as the show date approaches. I wondered if the actors might have experienced some of these same emotions. If so, it wasn’t apparent. The strong ensemble cast was uniformly confident throughout.

The show is very funny, and so are the songs. The solid orchestra did a great job with the mostly uptempo numbers, even if the tunes are forgettable and just a vehicle for the clever lyrics.

Sometimes the instruments tended to cover the singing, which is a shame, because you don’t want to miss a word. Hopefully, this and few other sound issues were worked out by opening night. The cast includes outstanding singers.

The dancing is great, too. The six main characters have to act intentionally clumsy when it comes to dancing, for the sake of the story. But in the show-stopping number "Michael Jordan’s Ball," when they think of dancing more as a sport, they spring to life with dazzling, intricate choreography.

The sports reference seems perfectly in keeping with the tone of the show. Well aware of their imperfections, the guys seem to be pulling together to win one for the team, rather than trying to give the girls a thrill.

They learn what those of us in the mostly female audience already knew. What we really find attractive is confidence and a good sense of humor.

So if you go to "The Full Monty" will you be treated to the full monty? I’m not going to say. I don’t want to ruin the anticipation leading up to the big finish. If you can leave your inhibitions at home, along with the children, you will have a wonderful time.

Remaining performances for "The Full Monty" at The Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Dr., are 8 p.m. tonight through Saturday. Then it moves to Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre, 310 Greene St., for performances 8 p.m. July 20-21 and 26-28, and at 2 p.m. July 22 and 29.

Admission is $22 for adults, $20 for seniors and $18 for students. The show contains adult language and content, including nudity.

For tickets, call 336-725-4001.