DUAL CRITICS THEATRE REVIEW
St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened its 26th season with the revealing comedy “The Full Monty” on September 21. It will remain on the Matuza Main Stage through October 22, 2017.
The musical is based on a 1997 British film of the same name, set in Sheffield, England. Playwright Terrance McNally created an Americanized version set in Buffalo, New York, a steel town much like the original. He wrote the book, the music and lyrics are by David Yazbeck. The show opened on Broadway in 2000, was nominated for nine Tony Awards, and ran for 700 performances. Content Alert: The play contains adult language and themes.
The show opens with several unemployed workers receiving unemployment checks, and sharing their concerns about an uncertain future. The steel mill where they worked has closed, and finding a new job is difficult.
Afterward, two friends decide to visit a strip club to check on the women in their lives. Jerry (Phillip Chandler) is divorced and having a tough time paying child support for his son Nathan (Alex Lawless) to his ex-wife Pam (Francesca Bellavista). His overweight buddy Dave (Everette Street) is having financial troubles as well. Dave’s wife Georgie (Elizabeth Bricknell) has organized a celebratory outing with friends at the club, which is staging a show for women only.
While prowling around, Jerry and Dave encounter Keno (Chase Lawless), the featured stripper. He’s impressive; athletic, handsome, self-assured. He makes the life of a stripper seem glamorous and this sets this story in motion. Jerry figures if women are really paying money to see gay men strip, they would pay really big bucks to see real men strip.
Jerry recruits Harold (Blake Osner), who was previously a supervisor at the mill, as a performer, organizer and choreographer. He and his lovely wife Vicki (Linda Mignon) are accomplished ballroom dancers. Like the rest of the men he needs money, as Vickie has expensive tastes and he hasn’t been able tell her that he’s been unemployed for the past six months.
The next member of this growing troupe is Malcolm (Michael Cejvanovic) who is also unemployed. He is depressed, has no friends, and lives with his mother. Fortunately, his attempt at suicide is interrupted by Jerry and Dave.
The additional members of the group (now called “Hot Metal”) were selected through open auditions. Noah, a retired aging African-American also known as “Horse,” was initially portrayed (September 21-24) by Patric Robinson, who can really shake, rattle, and roll as he sings “Big Black Man.” His appearance was limited due to a previous commitment elsewhere, and Wilford Kelly, a senior studying Vocal Performance at UNF will assume the role during the remainder of the run.
The final member is Ethan (Craig Wickless), who says he can’t dance but has been inspired by “Singing in the Rain” to attempt walking up walls.
`The six guys were fantastic together, with excellent comic timing and chemistry. They all sang, some better than others. There are thirteen songs, with titles that include “Scrap,” “Big-Ass Rock,” and “Michael Jordan’s Ball.”
Women contribute much to this musical. Vicki sings about the materialistic delights of her marriage in “Life with Harold.” All the women, including Jennifer Latke, who appears as Estelle and Ensemble Member Shannon Acevedo join the rousing “It’s a Woman’s World.”
The orchestra is led by Shelli Long who is the Musical Director and on piano. She also has a role as a cast member, portraying Jeanette, a trouper who shows up out of nowhere to provide tough-love advice and direction to the fledgling performers. The musicians accompanying her were Kurt Zeigler (Bass), Brian Lester (Drums), Daniel Stagnitta (Woodwinds), and Tony Stagnitta (Trumpet).
Rounding out the cast and playing several roles while on and off the stage frequently were David Williams, Fadil Cejanovic and Steven Rich.
The choreography by Jennifer Dourneaux magically made dancers out of six guys with little or no experience. They are stripping while dancing so your attention might not be on their feet. At this point, you probably want to know if they pull it off. Take it all off? The Partial Monty or the Full Monty as they promised? We’re not telling.
Director Beth Lambert’s casting and direction was marvelous. Dom Grasso’s versatile set design includes a factory interior, a rehearsal space, a nightclub setting, and family homes. Molly Von Giannotta’s costumes notably included colorful dresses for the ladies and police uniforms along with jock straps for Hot Metal’s performance.
The show does have some serious moments. One near the end stands out as a minister presides over a short funeral, and Michael Cejvanovic and Craig Wickless sing “You Walk With Me,” a lovely and haunting duet.
The Sunday matinee full house, mostly senior adults, was energetic and excited. They were rewarded with a funny funny show, a belly-laugh show.
The Full Monty crew included Beth Lambert (Director), Shelli Long (Musical Director), Daphne Moore (Stage Manager), Courtney Forshee (Assistant Stage Manager), Carl Liberatore (Lighting Designer), Austin Moore (Light and Sound Operator), Dom Grasson (Set Design), and Molly Von Giannotta (Costume Design).
Don’t miss this triumphant production. For reservations and additional information call 904-825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org.