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The Full Monty

The Full Monty
Book by Terrence McNally
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Directed and Choreographed by Leslie Waggoner
Bay Area Musicals

Not many plays open with a steamy male striptease number, but it befits The Full Monty, Terrence McNally and David Yazbek’s highly successful Broadway hit that turns the Chippendale obsession on its head by focusing on a ragtag group of furloughed factory workers eager to make a quick buck and redeem their lost sense of manhood. Director and choreographer Leslie Waggoner and a fine cast supply both the tenderness and hilarity required of McNally’s sharp book. Based on the cult movie of the same name, the 2000 musical grabbed nine Tony nominations and from the raucous standing ovation it received opening night, is sure to be a big hit for Bay Area Musicals.

Nathan (Christian Apy) encourages his dad Jerry (James Schott) to perform.

Co-creators David Yazbek (The Band’s Visit, Tootsie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and Terrence McNally (Love! Valor! Compassion!, Master Class, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime) relocate the story from Sheffield, England to rundown, recession addled Buffalo. Best friends Dave (Chris Plank) and Jerry (James Schott) are saddled with problems superseding their lack of employment. Jerry is in arrears of his child support and may lose custody of his son Nathan (Christopher Apy) as his ex-wife is getting chummy with another guy. Dave is seriously overweight, refuses to take a subservient position as a security guard and hasn’t been romantic with wife Georgie (Briel Pomerantz) in months. Aroused by their wives’ enthusiasm for a travelling Chippendales show, the men get the hairbrained scheme to put on a show of their own and best the Chippies by doing the ‘full monty’, hence the title.

Noah ‘Horse’ Simmons (Albert Hodge) wows his audition.

The humor comes from, of course, the premise and McNally mines the preposterousness of these guys stripping for all its worth, from botched dance lessons, the buying of teeny tiny thongs, the hiring of a sassy, free-talking accompanist to the men’s initial rejection of the idea to their eventual acceptance and commitment to the project. Besides Dave and Jerry, they add the clumsy, naïve Malcolm (Jackson Thea), the daft Ethan (Stephen Kanaski), whose only talent in his enormous asset, song and dance man Noah “Horse’ Simmons (the scene stealing Albert Hodge) and ex-CPA and dance coach Harold Nichols (Arthur Scappaticci).

A tender moment between dancers Ethan (Stephen Kanaski) and Malcolm (Jackson Thea).

Yazbek’s score earned him a Tony nom and Drama Desk win. From the gritty opener “Scrap” where the men confess their feelings of worthlessness and loss, to the sensitive lullaby Jerry sings to the sleeping Nathan (‘Breeze Off the River”) and the touching funeral duet between Malcolm and his new love Ethan (“You Walk With Me”), the songs keep us engaged and the story moving. Stellar supporting performances are delivered by Michele Janiro as the feisty Jeanette (“Jeanette’s Showbiz Number”), Albert Hodge’s sensational song and danced audition (“Big Black Man”) and Briel Pomerantz (Georgie) and Adrienne Herro’s (Vicki) number “It’s a Woman’s World”.

Georgie (Briel Pomerantz) define a Woman’s World.

Waggoner receives able support form costume designer Brooke Jennings, Eric Johnson’s wonderful lighting and a factory-like set design by Artistic Director Matthew McCoy. Musical Director Jon Gallo masterfully helms the small orchestra from offstage right in support of the fine vocal performances.

It’s not all comic antics and the play has a deeper heart that lends it emotional heft; touching on serious issues as the effects of unemployment of the psyche, same sex romance, the working-class culture, suicide, depression and of course body image. McNally is no stranger to these topics that pop up in his works. Director Leslie Waggoner has assembled a fine cast of believable characters who make you think, yes, anyone can be sexy when filled with encouragement, purpose and a little craziness.

 The Full Monty continues through March 15, 2020 at the Victoria Theatre,2961 16th Street, San Francisco, CA. Tickets available at www.bamsf.org/the-full-monty

Photos by Ben Krantz Studio.