Written by Patrick Chavis
Warning: this article will contain a discussion of graphic material. The image of oiled up, rippling, manly muscles grinding, thrusting, working extremely hard to please hard-working women, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done is an image more commonly seen near Hollywood Blvd and all over the Vegas strip. There are plenty of strip clubs for men in the O.C., but you can count the strip clubs catering to women audiences in the O.C. on your hand, so viewing the previous description on Chapman near Downtown Fullerton is a shock. Admittedly it’s the only shock that comes from this production. TJ Dawson directs 3D Theatricals’ Full Monty –taking a brave chance on material about the perils of unemployment and the damage that ensues when society forces men to live up to unrealistic beauty ideals. The show’s mood is funny in parts and deadly serious in others, but in the process of going for both, you feel left out of these men’s lives.
The Full Monty, the musical, is based on the 1997 British film version. The musical sets the story in Buffalo, New York, with Americans instead of a British cast (because a bunch of British people in Buffalo, New York, would be weird). The story remains the same. The main characters, Jerry Lukowski and Dave Bukatinsky, were recently let go from their steelworking jobs and are having severe trouble finding worthy employment. I say work they are worthy of because they can find jobs, but they’re overqualified (working at a mall, for example). One fateful night they find themselves near a male Chippendales strip club –the kind where every night is Ladies’ Night and scream decimals go up a few octaves. Curiously they go in for reasons… and coincidently find themselves in a situation where they overhear all the issues their wife and ex-wife have with them. Jerry’s ex-wife, Pam, plans to take away Nathan, their kid because he can’t pay child support. Meanwhile, Georgie, Dave’s wife, is having doubts about their relationship because of Dave’s insecurities. After overhearing the women’s conversation and gaining inspiration from a male stripper, Jerry plans a stripping event with Dave and a bunch of other laid-off workers to strip and go the Full Monty.
The scene where they overhear their wives talking pretty much sets up the entire story. It’s the lynchpin moment in the story that forces the characters to make a change and pushes them to act. But this scene also reads like some egotistical man fantasizing that when women are alone, they only talk about or think about men. This show is very progressive towards men’s issues while generalizing women quite a bit. It’s a weakness in this show because some of the most exciting parts of this production about men are the women. The relationship between Georgie (Jeanette Dawson) and Dave (Matthew Downs) was one of the most exciting aspects of this show. Dawson and Downs were at their best and most captivating on stage together. Their acting is so good you barely get the feeling this is a musical. It feels like a straight play, and the music is just there.
The show has two renditions of the song “You Rule My World,” which is sung in the first act by Dave and Harold (David Engels), who is another character that was laid off from his job and struggles to tell Vicki (Janna Cardia) –the woman he loves –that he was laid off and can’t buy her the things he uses to. In the song, they sing about how much they care for their significant others and how deep their love goes. In the second act, there is a reprise of the song, but now Georgie and Vicki are singing. Both renditions of this well-composed song are highlights in this production.
Another great song and I would be amiss not to mention it, is “Big-Ass Rock.” It’s a song that would be funny and enjoyable independent of this show. When I think about it, it’s not a necessary song for the story, but I’m glad it’s there. The basic idea is that a true friend will support you and help you out even if you want to commit suicide. I’m not making light of suicide, but it is a very creative –albeit darkly themed –song.
My least favorite part of the show was the relationship Jerry, Pam, and their son Nathan share. It wasn’t as interesting as some of the other characters’ relationships. Jerry’s character just felt so bland, and by the book, I had trouble believing his relationship with his son. Everything just felt like the character was going through the motions. In this case, it’s more a fault of the scripting than the actors.
The set and scene transitions were top-notch. The music from the orchestra was excellent but underwhelming at times and too restrained.
The Full Monty elicits some critical thought regarding severe issues that come from unemployment and socially created ideals of masculinity. Still, to me, the show loses track of these ideas and instead unsuccessfully pushes the audience face-first into something they think is more provocative.
APRIL 22, 2016 – MAY 8, 2016
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