The Full Monty: The Review

Ken AshfordLocal Interest, Popular CultureLeave a Comment

It’s a hit!

Baring All: ‘Tasteful’ musical fully uncovers story of hard times

By Mary Martin Niepold

What’s it like to strip right down to our natural born selves? It’s bad enough if you’re a fledgling teenage girl. But what if you’re a full-grown, out-of-work, steelworker kind of man?

That’s the send-up in The Full Monty, the Terrence McNally musical that opened Thursday night in a co-production by The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem and the Community Theatre of Greensboro.

In it, we encounter six desperate men who decide to become male strippers when they can’t find work anywhere else, and they’ve got kids to support and families to take care of. They have to go for “the full monty,” or total nudity. The real story, however, is what it takes on the inside to do what’s necessary in hard times.

If ever there was a fun night at the theater, this qualifies. The journey from out-of-work man to male stripper is pure delight – a rousing show packed with laughs, a thong here and there, and some fine song-and-dance numbers along the way.

Recommended for mature audiences, the nudity is never salacious, and, fortunately, the theme running in the show makes even that identifiable. These are Average Joes who have to confront extra pounds, knock-knees, zero talent and a few other foibles on their way to summoning enough courage to go for it and make some real bucks in the altered reality as a Chippendale kind of guy in the mean streets of Pittsburgh. The nudity is usually backlit, always tasteful.

The cast – a lively mixture of Winston-Salem and Greensboro talents – can do pratfalls and slapstick renditions of comedy quite well under the excellent direction of Jamie Lawson.

Lawson, the artistic director for the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance, stretches his own theatrical talent in this one, directing and choreographing with big, bold moves and throwing in a live 12-piece orchestra for added oomph.

Watch for some sizzling renditions from Neil Shepherd as Jerry Lukowski, who cooks up this male version of liberation for himself and five other guys, and Gray Smith, a pigeon-toed show-stealer, as Malcolm MacGregor.

Laughter at what we all go through when it comes to owning up to our own bodies is not a bad tonic, especially in a theatrical setting.

■ The Full Monty, a musical by Terrence McNally, will be presented by Little Theatre of Winston-Salem at 8 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Sunday, and at 8 p.m. Thursday through next Saturday at The Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem. It will be performed in Greensboro at 8 p.m. July 20-21 and July 26-28, and at 2 p.m. July 22 and 29 at The Historic Carolina Theatre, 310 S. Greene St. Admission is $22, $20 for senior adults and $18 for students. Call 336-725-4001. Recommended for mature audiences.

A couple of comments:

*  It takes place in Buffalo, not Pittsburgh.  We only mention Buffalo (and the Buffalo Bills) about nine times during the show.

*  Well, yes — it is tasteful.  Although the degree of what you see depends on the lights at the last moment.  Last night, the huge flash that comes at the end of the show, intended to blind the audience from seeing the boys’ "boys", was a split second too late, and the audience got a very brief flash of more than we intended.  No problem.  A good time was had by all.

More Monty coverage from Heather.