Thursday, January 26, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of The Full Monty at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of The Full Monty at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Full Monty
Based on the Motion Picture released by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Book by Terrence McNally
Music & Lyrics by David Yazbek
Directed by Keith Andrews
Choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo
Musically Directed by Andrew Haile Austin
Scenic Design by DT Willis
Costume Design by Tristan Raines
Lighting Design by Doug Harry
Sound Design by Laura Shubert
Wig & Hair Design by Emilia Martin
Props Design by ToniAnne DiFilippo
The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport
250 Main Street
Northport, New York 11768
Reviewed 1/22/17

The Full Monty had its world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego from June 1 through July 9, 2000. The Broadway production opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on October 26, 2000 and closed on September 1, 2002, after 770 performances and 35 previews. In this Americanized musical stage version adapted from the 1997 British film of the same name, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers with imperfect bodies decide to put on a "one-night only" strip act at Tony Giordano's, a local club, after seeing their wives' enthusiasm for a touring company of Chippendale's. Their promotional hook is that they are not only offering women the opportunity to see "real men" strip (as opposed to "fairies") but also that they intend to go "the full monty" by taking off all their clothes. Two of the six "real men" are Jerry Lukowski, the man with the plan, who has gotten divorced in the 18 months since he was laid off and is now at risk of losing joint custody of his son for not having met his child support obligations. Jerry sleeps with Estelle Genovese, the local slut, even on weekends when his son visits, smokes marijuana and watches pornography. He refuses to take available jobs as a security guard, a waiter, or even a packer because he feels those jobs are beneath his dignity. Dave Bukatinsky, Jerry's best friend, is in a similar position. He is still married but hasn't slept with his wife in some time. He is depressed, drinks, and handles household chores while allowing his wife to carry the entire financial burden of paying their bills. He complains, "I want to feel like the husband - not the wife!" Jerry and Dave hold auditions to find the right men for the job and hope to take a share of the $50,000.00 they intend to make, which will pay off some of their debts and allow Jerry to catch up on his child support payments.

The first man added to Hot Metal, a name for the troupe Jerry's son Nathan came up with, is Malcolm MacGregor, a nerd who lives with his mother and was kept on as a security guard at the factory (which will come in handy when they later look for rehearsal space). Jerry and Dave come upon Malcolm while he is in the process of committing suicide. They save his life, offer to be his friend, and suggest that he join them. The three of them sing "Big-Ass Rock," a hilarious song with lyrics suggesting more effective ways a friend could help another friend commit suicide. Dave also offers Malcolm a cigarette after having saved him but in a very funny line, he says, "No thanks. I'm trying to quit." When checking out the local dance studio for tips, they come across Harold Nichols, their former supervisor, who has not yet told his wife he is unemployed. In return for their silence, Harold agrees to give them pointers and help choreograph their act. Harold's wife Vicki does a fine rendition of "Life With Harold" and Dave and Harold sing "You Rule My World" with an equally moving reprise of the song performed in the second act by their wives, Georgie and Vicki. During auditions, they hire Noah "Horse" T. Simmons, an elderly African-American who knows how to move, dance and sing, and Ethan Girard, a white man with absolutely no talent. When asked, "You don't sing. You don't dance. Why do you think we should hire you?", he responded, "I thought maybe this!" as he dropped his pants revealing a gargantuan Godzilla-sized penis. So with the group in place and with the knowledge that Buffalo had already given the world Buffalo wings, they were now prepared to give it Buffalo wieners!

Jeanette Burmeister shows up with a piano to help with the auditions and the show. Her character is the glue that keeps everyone together, despite her pessimistic observations during "Jeanette's Showbiz Number." She turns to Malcolm at one point and says, "It's like a Putz Museum." She also opines that "a dead agent" is definitely an oxymoron. The gang is busted by the cops for indecent exposure during an un-dress rehearsal before an audience of nursing home residents. Malcolm and Ethan escape the police and for some reason, crawl through a window at Malcolm's home. They connected previously by discovering they were both fans of The Sound Of Music, but the second they had a tender moment and Ethan held Malcolm's hand in anticipation of their first kiss, the morality code kicked in demanding they be immediately punished for their deviance. At that second, in the darkness, Malcolm senses that something is wrong and discovers his mother has passed away. At the funeral, Malcolm and Ethan sing "You Walk With Me," a very moving song that brought me to tears. Dave pointed out to Jerry that Malcolm and Ethan were holding hands. Jerry's response was "Good for them. Good for them," which was quite unexpected since he earlier tried to hit Buddy "Keno" Walsh, a gay Chippendale's dancer who called him "honey."

As we move into the big night, some of the guys are having second thoughts about appearing naked on stage, except for Ethan, of course, who has no insecurity regarding his endowment. Jerry's ex-wife Pam is in the audience, with her new boyfriend, Teddy Slaughter, who brought binoculars (clearly meant as a burn to her ex-husband). Noah "Horse" T. Simmons is terrified because his minister and his mom have come to see the show. Dave's wife Georgie is front and center urging him on and they are all a little uncomfortable because half the audience is male. Still, the line is around the block and the show is sold out. They may even need to add a second show. I have never appreciated the fact that when it comes to showing the audience The Full Monty in the final number of the musical, "Let It Go," that many directors move the guys to the back of the stage and then deny the audience the money shot by blinding them with high-intensity light. It's a cheat which never sat well with me. On the other hand, in light of the dose of morality injected into the script, the lack of a payoff at the end of the play is something you could have anticipated.

There isn't a weak link in the entire cast. All are extremely talented and professional actors. The Hot Metal dancers - Brent Michael DiRoma (Jerry Lukowski), Ryan G. Dunkin (Dave Bukatinsky), Spencer Glass (Malcolm MacGregor), Milton Craig Nealy (Noah "Horse" T. Simmons), Noah Bridgestock (Ethan Girard), and Peter Simon Hilton (Harold Nichols) - each shine with their own unique light. Making their presence and perspectives known are the main female actors - Kate Marshall (Pam Lukowski), Nicole Hale (Georgie Bukatinsky), Gaelen Gilliland (Vicki Nichols), Lexi Lyric (Estelle Genovese), and Diane Findlay (Jeanette Burmeister). Also worthy of note was the performance of Kyle Wolf as Nathan Lukowski, and Wayne Shuker as Teddy Slaughter. The music, sets, costumes and direction are all top-notch but for a play supposed to be set in "The Present" there were many cultural references to sports and music figures who were active and more well-known in the late 1990s. The anachronistic references do not detract from your ability to enjoy the show, but your anger at out-of-work men who refuse to "man-up" and take a job to help their wives out while "waiting for the right situation" reflects a gender role rigidity and super-male ego I would have hoped had been left behind in the 20th Century, along with physical attacks on gay men who look at you the wrong way or say something you don't like.

This is an extraordinary production of The Full Monty. You will thoroughly enjoy the songs, the sets, the scenes, and the situations. The message of this play, in my opinion, is that if life throws you a curve ball, you should take a swing and hit it out of the park, even it means moving outside your comfort zone. Speak to your wife and significant others. Communicate with your mother and your friends. You are not alone and help awaits if only you get over your pride and ask for it. If you need to go "the full monty" to sell $50.00 tickets to your strip show (even if it's illegal), maybe you should "go for it" because "you only live once." Of course, you may not want to live out your life with a criminal record so I would use some discretion when making life decisions. One decision that is safe to make is committing to see The Full Monty, which runs at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport through March 5, 2017. The performance schedule is as follows: Thursdays at 8:00 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. (Some Wednesdays and Sunday evenings are available). Tickets are $76.00 on Saturday evenings, $71.00 all other performances and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, going online at or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street in Northport (Long Island).

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