San Diego Theater Review: THE FULL MONTY (San Diego Musical Theatre)

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by Milo Shapiro on January 28, 2018

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


When the main factory in town shuts down and only menial work, far below previous pay grade, can be found, what’s a man supposed to do? For the two central men in The Full Monty, the answer is to create a one-night-only strip show to compete with Chippendales. The not-so-minor problem? A lack of talent, looks, physique and − oh yeah − men. But if it means bringing in a chunk of cash to help settle his belated child-support checks, Jerry (Steven Freitas) is determined to find the needed additional men among the factory castoffs and make this work. Overweight Dave (Danny Stiles) wrestles with wanting no part of undressing onstage, but cannot figure out how to let his best friend down.

Based on the somewhat-darker 1997 film, which was set in Sheffield, England, Terrence McNally’s book for this musical is set instead in Buffalo, NY (with plenty of references to hot wings and The Bills to remind us where we are). Beyond that, the plot follows the movie fairly closely, as we examine the feelings and relationships of these emasculated men and the women behind them, who have to keep their own lives going.

Come knowing that this is no Magic Mike; rather than being a racy show about erotic dancing, the power is in the suffering and healing within this unlikely band of stripper misfits who are trying to gain some control of their lives. Yes, we are titillated with the big question of whether they’ll have the courage to go Full Monty (undressing to complete nudity) in order to sell enough tickets, but this only adds to the humor and poignancy.

Directed by Neil Dale and choreographed by Paul David Bryan, the performance quality felt strongly split between the acts. By the end of the first act, San Diego Musical Theatre’s production would best be described as “pleasant and enjoyable.” Voices felt adequate, but unremarkable. The humor was entertaining, but not excitingly so. Devlin adds some wonderful and welcome comic character work as Jerry’s pianist, Jeanette, a hardened veteran of yesteryear show-biz. Ron Christopher Jones joyfully riles up the audience as “Horse,” far too old to be stripping, but notably the first auditionee for Jerry’s show to have a real sense of rhythm, making him a contender.

In Act II, a fire seemed to be lit beneath everyone musically. Notes were held longer, stronger, and in better pitch. Numerous impressive harmonies triumphed, especially during “You Walk With Me,” a tender moment between two of the stripper-wannabees: the frequently-awkward Malcolm (Jonathan Sangster) and the emotionally-taxed Ethan (Jack Eld). The book and music even seem to gain energy, with more laugh lines that the cast delivers well and more memorable songs from David Yazbeck, like the sweet “You Rule My World” featuring two of the wives in a lovely split-stage number (Karyn Overstreet and Joy Yandell). In the end, SDMT’s The Full Monty is fun, touching, and recommendable production, full of solid musical performances.

photos by Ken Jacques

The Full Monty
San Diego Musical Theatre
Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Ave
Thurs at 7:30; Fri at 8; Sat at 4 & 8; Sun at 2
ends on February 25, 2018
for tickets, call 858.560.5740 or visit SDMT

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