Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Emotional vulnerability is ‘Monty’s’ hallmark

What: "The Full Monty."

When: 8 p.m. today; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Tickets: $25 to $75.

Information: (702) 785-5555.

Rating (out of 5 stars): *****

Much more is bared in "The Full Monty" than men's private parts.

This musical comedy exposes the lead characters' emotions -- their fears, their weaknesses, their shortcomings.

The macho men of American society, some of whom might be considered a throwback to the Stone Age, would much rather reveal their genitalia in public than their feelings.

And under the skillful pen of Terrence McNally, "The Full Monty" becomes a metaphor for unveiling a person's most intimate thoughts.

It is a musical with a message -- a message made palatable by McNally's story, which is filled with wit, humor and insight.

The message is that people in this country are too obsessed with images.

Enhancing the tale are wonderful lyrics and music by David Yazbek and choreography by Jerry Mitchell.

"The Full Monty" was a low-budget, 1997 British film that struck a chord with the moviegoing public. It was a sleeper that received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

Recognizing a good thing when they saw it, producers hired McNally to adapt the 90-minute film for the Broadway stage. The production lasts almost three hours.

There was some concern that Las Vegas audiences might not sit still for that length of time unless a slot machine was placed in front of them.

It was not a concern shared by producer Kevin McCollum. He expressed confidence that fans would appreciate the musical.

Turns out he was right.

The three hours sped by during Wednesday's opening performance, and there was no mass exodus during the 15-minute intermission at the midway point.

McNally moved the story's setting from Yorkshire, England, to Buffalo, N.Y.

The story revolves around the lives of six unemployed steelworkers who have been out of work for 18 months and are suffering from low self-esteem. Most fear they are going to have to take a job as a security guard at Wal-Mart, or what they consider some other menial task.

As the performance shows, a man's ego is tightly entwined with his work, and to have the work taken away can be psychologically devastating. The men of "The Full Monty" are forced to examine themselves, their goals, their place in society and their relationships with those closest to them.

Inspired by a troupe of male strippers who strip to their G-strings, the steel workers decide to provide something the Chippendale-like dancers don't -- full frontal nudity, or the full monty (which is a British slang term).

It was an easy transition. There are certain universal truths about relationships that transcend international time zones, and the musical is as much about relationships as it is anything else.

The main male characters are Jerry Lukowski (played by Christian Anderson), his best friend Dave Bukatinsky (Eric Leviton), Malcolm MacGregor (Leo Daignault), Harold Nichols (Robert Westenberg), Noah "Horse" T. Simmons (Milton Craig Nealy) and Ethan Girard (Trey Ellett).

From the interaction of these characters as they prepare to perform the full monty in front of 1,000 women emerges a story with universal appeal.

Lukowski is divorced, behind in his child-support payments and in danger of losing shared custody of his son if he doesn't make good on his arrears. His wife lives with another man, but there seems to be some spark between the two exes.

Bukatinsky is overweight and upset; he must stay home and clean house while his wife works. Depressed and unable to express himself to his wife, his sex drive has been repressed.

MacGregor, who is gay, works as a security guard and lives at home with his domineering mother, who is confined to a wheelchair.

Nichols, a ballroom dancer, was an executive at the steel mill who fired the other characters and then was himself let go by the company. He is devoted to his wife, who appears to be mercenary, and has hidden his unemployment from her.

Simmons has just been fired from his job at McDonald's.

Girard, also gay, becomes MacGregor's love interest. Although he can't sing or dance, he reveals himself to be so well-endowed that the rest of the troupe decides to let him join their production.

It is a fine cast, which deserved the standing ovation at the conclusion of their performance.

Jane Connell is a highlight as Jeanette Burmeister, pianist for the would-be male strippers.

There are many memorable show tunes, including "Big Black Man," "Big-Ass Rock" and "You Walk With Me" (sung by Malcolm and Ethan when they discover their love for each other at the funeral of Malcolm's mother).

Thankfully, the writers and directors don't romanticize the ending.

The six jobless men do not suddenly morph into a troupe of Chippendales, physically flawless and polished dancers.

They are flawed to the end, klutzy but delightful and wonderfully human.

Thanks to tactful lighting, we don't know the extent of their physical shortcomings when they finally perform their famed "full monty" -- but by then it doesn't matter: We have already seen everything that matters.com

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