The Full Monty
3–D Theatricals at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
Reviewed by Dany Margolies
The cast of The Full Monty
Photo courtesy 3–D Theatricals
“Anybody can take their clothes off. But to do it on a stage, with thousands and thousands of people looking at you? That takes something.” So says male stripper Keno at the top of The Full Monty, in a lively production by 3–D Theatricals, directed by T.J. Dawson. Over the course of this three-hour musical, six men in the steel industry find this “something” within themselves.
After a brief, jazz-infused overture, the musical plunges right into Keno’s (Justin Berti) routine. Wowza, can this guy dance (choreography by Leslie Stevens, as it is throughout the show). The steelworkers’ attempts to mimic this talent certainly contrast with the pro’s routine. That’s the whole point of this show. We are who we are.
It’s based on the 1997 British film of the same name, written by Simon Beaufoy, about unemployed steelworkers who strip for one night to raise money. Here, with book by Terrence McNally, music and lyrics by David Yazbek, the story is reset in 1992 Buffalo, N.Y.
If Jerry (Allen Everman) can’t pay child support, he’ll lose custody of his beloved preteen son, Nathan (Dante Marenco). Jerry’s wife, Pam (Lauren Decierdo), shows no interest in helping Jerry, emotionally or financially. Jerry’s best pal, Dave (Matthew Downs), takes his unhappiness out in overeating, then refuses to believe that his wife, Georgie (Jeanette Dawson), could still love him.
Jerry schemes to put on a strip show, which he names Hot Metal, thus bringing in the cash the women in town seem to have no trouble parting with. He turns to the local dance teacher, Harold (David Engel), who happens to be the foreman who downsized the plant.
We watch the Hot Metal auditions of, among others, Horse (Rovin Jay), Malcolm (Tyler Miclean) and Ethan (Nick Waaland). The African-American Horse is nearly arthritic, but he’s the dancer of the group. Ethan is the presumably ideal physical specimen (we glimpse only the backside, not for the last time in this production).
Malcolm is just tender. Jerry’s and Dave’s hearts feel for his young aching soul, and so he’s cast. Good thing for the audience, because Miclean’s voice is beautiful. But in Miclean’s portrayal of Malcolm, the young lad is more peculiar than fragile. Paired with Waaland’s quirky Ethan, they’re more a comedy team than they are realistic men.
Jay’s Horse introduces 1960s dances, which Stevens perfectly choreographs to look like free-spirited improvisation. But the choreographic highlight here is the number “Michael Jordan’s Ball,” which ties dance to sports and introduces the show’s most-dramatic lighting (Jean-Yves Tessier). It’s the smashing Act 1 closer.
How to top that with the Act 2 opener? Give it to the show’s comedic highlight, Jeanette, the accompanist at Hot Metal’s rehearsals. Portrayed here by Candi Milo, she’s a showbiz showstopper. Milo wields Jeanette’s well-worn comedy shtick flawlessly. Because this Jeanette is so perfectly outrageous, the dated references—to the likes of Arthur Godfrey and Lawrence Welk—leave the audience in hysterics.
The show has its serious moments. There’s a staged suicide attempt. Even funnyman Engel gives Harold a tender side, with a gorgeous vocal performance that expertly uses dynamics to tell his story.
So Everman, Downs, Engel and to a large extent Marenco find the emotional cores of their characters, turning this musical about our outsides into one very much about our insides. Everman is a broodingly romantic Jerry, while Downs uses humor to mask Dave’s unhappiness. Jeanette Dawson, too, never hides Georgie’s love and longing for Dave, though he just can’t see it.
But Decierdo makes Jerry’s wife, Pam, stony throughout. Pam’s finished with him, and so is his new girlfriend. So when they, and apparently everyone else the six men know, show up at the big event, it’s more voyeurism than it is loving support.
This musical, at least at its start, preys on stereotypes, including the patronizing song “It’s a Woman’s World.” But “The Full Monty” is about acceptance—of oneself and of others. So audiences must accept the show’s profanity, nudity, and a child who watches his dad and dad’s buddies work up a strip routine. As the show’s glittery finale advises, “Loosen up, yeah, let it go.”
April 19, 2016
16–May 8. Show continues at Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave.,
Fullerton. Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm. $25–95, plus $3 handling fee per
ticket. (714) 589-2770, ext. 1.
You Never Can Tell
A Noise Within
Reviewed by Melinda Schupmann
Kasey Mahaffy and Jill Renner
Photo by Craig Schwartz
In his early career, George Bernard Shaw wrote two sets of plays that he labeled Plays Unpleasant (Widower’s Houses, The Philanderer, Mrs. Warren’s Profession ) and Plays Pleasant (Arms and the Man, Candida, You Never Can Tell). The unpleasant group decried social injustices and painted a portrait of people whose lives represented some of the ills of society. Most were not well-received, nor even produced, because of their subject matter. The pleasant ones were largely comic and intended to be lighter fare, but even with that intention, they contained some of the trenchant wit associated with Shaw throughout his life.
As part of A Noise Within’s season titled Breaking and Entering, which Artistic Directors Geoff and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott define as toppling the walls of fear and ignorance and shattering comfortable old notions, You Never Can Tell is a masterful comic farce in the hands of director Stephanie Shroyer. From the early moments of the play, the stage is set for absurd pronouncements, sly innuendo, and genuine laughs as the nimble ensemble takes on Shaw’s keen satire.
The plot is multifaceted. A mother, Mrs. Clandon (Deborah Strang), and her three children arrive back in an English seaside town after living in Madiera for 18 years. Gloria (Jill Renner) is in her early 20s and is a disciple of her mother, an ardent feminist. Twins Dolly (Erika Soto) and Phillip (Richy Storrrs) are 18 and irrepressible.
From the first they act as a comic tag team in the presence of a dentist, Dr. Valentine (Kasey Mahaffy), who is just beginning his practice, and not too successfully. They are long absent from England because Mrs. Clandon was fleeing a difficult marriage to Mr. Fergus Crampton (Apollo Dukakis), a shipping magnate. Mrs. Clandon’s children do not know the identity of their father, and when he is revealed, the action escalates. The convoluted shenanigans that lead to love and compromise among the characters encompass the substance of the story, but the icing on the cake is the lively direction and skill of the actors.
Dukakis is blustery and cranky, a perfect pompous Englishman. Strang opposes him graciously but shudders at the memory of their marriage. Renner easily convinces as a young woman who shuns the idea of marriage but abruptly yields to passion at the disarming hands of Valentine.
The comic trio of Soto, Storrs, and Mahaffy get the real action in this satiric farce. Shroyer gives them ample latitude to deliver over-the-top characterizations with high spirits. Mahaffy’s sardonic lift of an eyebrow or a casual pronouncement followed by a bit of stage business keep all eyes on him as he woos Gloria. Soto is a natural comedic actor, easily matched by Storrs, uncannily convincing as twins.
Other characters are Mr. Finch McComas (Jeremy Rabb), fervently trying to bring reason to the skirmishes); Walter Boon (Wesley Mann), a waiter who steals the show as he delivers the signature title line, “You never can tell,” throughout; and his son, Bohun (Freddy Douglas), a lawyer whose stentorian pronouncements make all the principals come to an understanding.
Don Llewellyn’s clever scenic design includes several locales, particularly a hotel restaurant. The scene changes choreographed by the characters are a delightful ballet. Angela Balogh Calin’s costumes are elegant, adding authenticity to the period. Composer–sound designer Peter Bayne and lighting designer James Taylor also add the requisite atmosphere with style.
Individually and as an ensemble, the actors and director bring this Victorian comedy of manners to life in a fresh way, easily enjoyed by modern audiences. Played for laughs, it nevertheless pays homage to Shaw’s use of language and acerbic observations about society, relationships, and the unpredictable nature of love.
March 16, 2016
March 6–May 15. 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Repertory schedule. $48–76. (626) 356-3100 ext. 1.
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