‘The Full Monty’
Theatre Cedar Rapids — through Feb. 10
If you are looking for something to warm up these cold, cold days of mid-winter, look no further than Theater Cedar Rapids’ production of The Full Monty (book by Terrence McNally, score by David Yazbek). Directed by Cavan Hallman with costuming by Noel VanDenBosch, this production heats up the stage and the audience as it takes us from working class blues to one red hot night.
The show, based on the 1997 Peter Catteneo film (set in Sheffield, England), was originally staged in 2000. It could suffer from outdated stereotypes, but the good-natured humor and well-directed and choreographed musical numbers keep any naysayers quiet. The Full Monty follows the lives of six unemployed men in Buffalo, New York as they seek to reclaim the ability to provide for their families and end up boosting their own self-esteem in the process.
The show opener features Miguel Davidson in his role as Keno, and he sets the tone (and expectations) for the rest of the show. As Jerry (Dustin Davis) and Dave (D.J. Kohl) discover what women want to see on stage, they hatch a plan to create a one night only all-male strip show that will allow them to get back on their feet after a factory closing left them without work.
Davis is alternately humorous and heart-breaking as he deals with an impending divorce and being separated from his son Nate (Jesse Flaherty). Throughout the show, Kohl endearingly portrays what everyone feels at one time in life or another: inadequacy and self-doubt.
The all-male revue gets cast as friends join in and auditions are held. Malcolm (Bryan Mullen) is rescued from despair; Mullen transforms his character as he makes friends throughout the rehearsals. Horse (Omarr Hatcher) brings the house down with his audition song “Big Black Man.” Ethan (Christopher Schubert) auditions somewhat differently, but Schubert brings this odd would-be dancer to life.
Former plant foreman, Harold (Jake Stigers) is recruited to teach the group to dance. He is a reluctant choreographer who is motivated by the perception that his wife’s love is rooted in material possessions. Stigers truly becomes this no-nonsense leader with a heart for his wife and the men in the group.
While the men in the cast have similar reasons for learning to dance and strip, they each confront their own demons as they do so. These men develop rapport and self-awareness as they prepare their show, sharing their insecurities and hopes with each other and the audience.
The ensemble supports the main cast in dance by choreographer Erin Helm and song by music director Benjamin Lee Schmidt. Two stand-outs in the ensemble are Sara Maslowski (Georgie) and Tina Conroy (Vicki), whose acting and voices bring a balance to the stage. Marcia Hughes (Jeanette) brings no-nonsense show biz experience to the men and their show, as well as humorous moments in otherwise discouraging rehearsals.
In the end, and despite the ups and downs of putting together their show, the men promise and deliver the “full monty” to the women of Buffalo — and to the audience in Cedar Rapids. The cast, ensemble, musicians and technical crews bring this show together, and on opening night, a spontaneous standing ovation was the end result. You don’t want to miss this upbeat and honest show.
The Full Monty runs through Feb. 10 at Theatre Cedar Rapids. Tickets are $25-45.