by Roseann Cane
Psssst…sister…you wanna have a good time? Get yerself a ticket to The Full Monty, now playing at the Capital Repertory Theatre!
I’d never seen this musical before, and I must admit that my expectations were not that great. I enjoyed the original English film version, which came out in 1997. Since the musical adaptation opened to great success on Broadway in 2000, the play has become a staple of regional and community theaters. I assumed that it was a shallow, gimmicky piece of work. And yes, I discovered, one could call the play gimmicky–but, to my pleasant surprise, it works!
Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill has deftly, affectionately directed this vibrant celebration of American survival that’s at turns funny, sweet, rambunctious, and–it must be said–corny. The corniness didn’t bother me because not only is the direction well paced; the cast is downright lovable, and like every other member of the audience (if cheering and prolonged applause is an acceptable measure), I wanted the guys to succeed…at stripping.
In Buffalo, New York, a group of steelworkers have been laid off. These blue-collar guys are stereotypically invested in the idea that the man is the breadwinner, and the thought of their wives finding out, let alone supporting them, threatens their masculinity. Close friends Jerry Lukowsky (Christopher Sutton) and Dave Bukatinsky (Patrick John Moran) discover that Jerry’s ex-wife, Pam (Emily Matthews), and Dave’s wife, Georgie (Kimberly Doreen Burns) are headed to Chippendales for a girls’ night out. The two men hide in the restroom, overhearing Pam declare that she intends to take Jerry to court for missed child support payments, and Georgie bemoaning the overweight Dave’s poor self-image.
Jerry has an epiphany (of sorts): The strip club is crowded with hyperexcited women who eagerly deposit bills into the dancers’ g-strings. If they could get a bunch of their unemployed friends to put on a similar show for one night, they could make a pile of money. Jerry and Dave convince their suicidal former coworker, Malcolm (David J. Socolar) to join them. In a ballroom dance class, the men encounter their former boss, Harold Nichols (Kevin McGuire), dancing with his luxury-loving wife Vicki (Lyn Philistine). Harold confides in the men that Vicki is completely unaware of his unemployment. After hearing the plan, Harold agrees to becomes the men’s choreographer.
For all of their protestations about their masculinity, these men are revealed to be vulnerable, and we love them for it, for the individual ways in which they express their vulnerability, for the new kind of courage each of them gains from exposing themselves emotionally as well as physically. The cast is quick, funny, and disarming, and while I didn’t leave the theater humming the score (it’s upbeat and undistinguished), I left the theater feeling great. I couldn’t help but care about these downtrodden men and the women in their lives.
I especially enjoyed the audition sequence. As the wisecracking accompanist Jeanette Burmeister, Susann Fletcher is hilarious, faintly reminiscent of Elaine Stritch, only sunnier. She encourages Jerry, Dave, and Harold, who are in despair as each of the auditioners before them seem irredeemably bad. Then a gnarled, arthritic, sad-looking man known as “Horse” (Reggie Whitehead) takes the stage. He has some difficulty moving. Eventually, he literally finds his footing, and his performance of “Big Black Man,” complete with acrobatic moves and a rousing voice, had the audience cheering. (We later learn that he, too, has a vulnerability…despite his nickname, he’s not hung like one. He, too, attains his well-earned courage.)
Freddy Ramirez’s choreography was delicious, and wonderfully executed. The design of this production, including Scott Aronow’s set (which smoothly transitions from a strip club to a back alley with a car to a men’s restroom, among other places), Barry Steele’s lighting and projection design, Rider Q. Stanton’s sound design, and Howard Tsvi Kaplan’s costumes, dovetailed splendidly to sweep us into these very real-seeming lives.
And, in case you were wondering, the men do strip. There’s no full-frontal nudity, but they get pretty close. “The Full Monty” is an English expression of disputed origin, but what it means is “the whole thing,” or as we Americans would say, “the whole nine yards.” In this case, I think the show’s creators were wise not to Americanize the title.
The Full Monty, book by Terrence McNally, music and lyrics by David Yazbek, directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill runs July 5-August 11 at Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Musical Director/Arranger Josh D. Smith. Scenic Design by Scott Aronow, Costume Design by Howard Tsvi Kaplan, Choreography by Freddy Ramirez, Sound Design by Rider Q. Stanton and Lighting/Projections Design by Barry Steele. CAST: Christopher Sutton as Jerry, Lyn Philistine as Vicki Nichols, Gil Brady as Teddy, Nicole Zelka as Estelle, Susann Fletcher as Jeannette Burmeister, Reggie Whitehead as Noah T. “Horse” Simmons, Christopher M. Howard as Buddy “Keno” Walsh, Sue Caputo as Susan, Kevin McGuire as Harold Nichols, Emily Matthews as Pam Lukowski, Fred Sirois as Reg, Josh D. Smith as Tony Giordano, Victoria Benkoski as Joannie, Kimberly Doreen Burns as Georgie Bukatinsky, Keith Dubois as Nathan, Eddie Maldonado as Ethan Girard, Patrick John Moran as Dave Bukatinsky, David Socolar as Malcolm Macgregor). Ensemble: Joshua DeMarco, Mitchell Johnson, and Victoria Preisman
Previews for The Full Monty take place July 5–7. Opening night is Tuesday, July 9. Regular performances continue through Sunday, Aug. 11. Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday—with matinees 3 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; and 2 p.m. Wednesdays, July 17 & 24. Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Tickets range from $27–$62. Students with valid ID: $16 all shows. For tickets and information, call Tickets by Proctors, 518.445.SHOW (7469) or visit capitalrep.org.
Opening night features live music in the café at 6:30 p.m. and complimentary post-show champagne and dessert from Bella Napoli Bakery.
Special events include:
3 p.m. Saturday July 13—American Sign Language-interpreted show. To secure the best seats for visibility of the signers, please call the Box Office.
6:30 p.m. July 16—Chef’s Table Night includes complimentary light fare for ticketholders, provided by Albany Pump Station.
6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25—Thirsty Thursday, with complimentary samples for ticketholders from Albany Distilling Company, Inc. & Nine Pin Cider.
1 p.m. Sunday, July 28—Behind-the-Scenes pre-matinee discussion with Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, featuring light snacks for ticketholders at 12:30 p.m.