As we drove to TMP for The Full Monty, my wife remarked, “I hope they don’t use English accents.” I said, “I hadn’t been worried about that.” Accents are hard to understand, especially in a theater that accommodates three hundred people. We didn’t need to worry.
We had seen the original 1997 British comedy when it first came out. The comedy, set in Sheffield, England, addressed several serious subjects: unemployment, parents’ rights, depression, impotence, the roles of men and women in society, homosexuality, body image, class structure, and suicide. The 2000 musical is set in Buffalo, New York, and touches on each of the same concerns. My sister-in-law, Kate’s family live in the Buffalo area, a really close match for depressed Sheffield. When she, her daughter and son visited here several years ago, the daughter decided her future lay in Western Washington.
Set in the ‘80s, the story concerns six unemployed men all facing a bleak future. All their wives have paid $50 for a one-night male stripper, danced by Buddy “Keno” Walsh (Bonne Dorrell). He was quite beautiful with very well-articulated muscles. This gives Jerry the idea of how to temporarily end their immediate money problems. He suggests they originate and perform a male strip act like the successful group Chippendales. Well, not exactly like them. The problem is that the men are shy, do not have sculpted or even particularly attractive bodies, and apparently lack rhythm and grace. Other than that, no problem.
Even after twenty years after seeing the film, I still remember a particular scene from the film. Peg and I saw the TMP production on Saturday night and I had breakfast with my firned Mike less than ten hours later. I mention the musical and he brought up the very same scene. The guys have been trying to develop their “moves.” They are interspersed with others in a long line of people waiting in the unemployment office. As they stand there, each in deep thought, their feet begin to move ever so slightly to the music of Donna Summer singing “Hot Stuff.” Soon they are in unison and you just know they will be able to pull the idea off. A similar scene works well in the stage production.
With body mics the actors were easy to hear in both dialogue and singing.
The plot turns on Nathan Lukowski (Thomas Gomes), picture a ten-year-old Woody Allen, the young son of out-of-work Jerry. Gomes has performed at Village Theatre, Issaquah, as well as Seattle Opera. I doubt he played Rigoletto, however. This is Gomes’ first appearance at TMP.
Jerry needs to come up with $700 in back child support or risks losing parental rights entirely. His buddy, Dave Bukatinsky (Erik Furuheim) is overweight and depressed . . . really depressed. He doesn’t want to perform naked because he’d be embarrassed. All the men have been laid off since the mill closed and jobs disappeared.
Horse (Russell Campbell) has a nice audition piece singing Big Black Man. He wasn’t a mill worker but needed a job, too. The other guys think this is great because it shows multicultural sensitivity.
Malcolm MacGregor (Jake Atwood) takes care of his wheel-chair bound mother, works as a night security guard, and is saved from death via “exhaustion” by Jerry and Dave. I recently saw Jake perform as Snoopy in the CenterStage production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” He was fantastic in that role. Atwood has appeared at TMP before as well as the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan plays, and Reboot Theatre Company. I like his comment in the program “. . . I promise it’s a lot bigger than it appears on stage, my heart that is.” He has a nice voice and actually the best body of the Full Monty dancers.
The sets moved about easily and the staging was excellent. Bruce Haasl (Jerry) and Judy Cullen did a great job in their set design and construction. Amy Silveria must be an expert with sound design, because this is the best I’ve been able to hear dialog in ages at several theatres. Jon Douglas Rake was very successful as both director and choreography. And, the orchestra added so much to the play without being over powering. After the standing ovation, the woman sitting next to Peg remarked, “Well, it certainly earned its ‘R’ rating!”
We saw The Full Monty at Tacoma Musical Playhouse on opening night. It’s so very, very funny and we highly recommend it. Some performances already have seating request problems. The Full Monty runs through June 2, Sunday. Get your tickets ASAP – tmp.org/index.php/2018-2019-main-stage-tickets/