The Full Monty
David Yazbek has written the music and lyrics for two of the better musicals that debuted in the last decade: 2001's The Full Monty and 2005's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, both based on the films of the same name. However, Yazbek has lousy timing as far as awards are concerned. The Full Monty opened in the fall of 2000 to nearly unanimous acclaim and was nominated for 9 Tony Awards.
But the show got lost amidst the hysteria of the over-rated The Producers, which dominated Tony night. Yazbek's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was an even better show that received 11 Tony nominations. 2005 was an exceptional year for new musicals with the Tony wealth being spread among The Light in the Piazza (6 awards), Spamalot (3 awards including Best Musical), the now hugely popular The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2 awards) leaving Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with only 1 award (for Big Stuff-leading actor Norbert Leo Butz). You can even hear early premonitions of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in The Full Monty. Monty's second act opener, "Jeanette's Showbiz Number" is the direct ancestor of Scoundrel's hot closing number "Dirty Rotten Guys ."
Intelligent lyrics, snazzy songs
The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrel’s both benefit from Yazbek’s imaginatively intelligent lyrics (quick: could you come up with a real rhyme for cajones?) and infectiously snazzy, jazzy-pop fresh songs that stay with you long after you leave the theatre. What sets The Full Monty apart from most musicals (including Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) is it’s lithe efficiency. Every song is completely essential to moving the plot forward; not a note is wasted.
With a book by Terrence McNally that is based on the 1997 British film, the musical transplants the action to present day Buffalo, New York. There we meet Jerry and Dave, two of the many steelworkers out of work since the steel mills shut down. They both feel like "Scrap ." Buffalo women, meanwhile are attending a traveling Chippendale male strip show and are boastfully singing, "It’s A Woman’s World ." Jerry and Dave overhear Dave’s wife Georgie and Jerry’s ex-wife Pam talk about how unmotivated the men seem to be. Jerry gets the idea that he and Dave can put together their own strip show to raise a lot of money fast, but they will do it as men ("Man").
While trying to get in shape by jogging, Jerry and Dave stumble across Malcolm, a security guard at the mill who still lives with his mother and who is trying to asphyxiate himself. Jerry and Dave rescue Malcolm and they all reflect on better ways to commit suicide in "Big Ass Rock ." Jerry and Dave go visit their former boss Harold at a ballroom dance class. They want Harold to teach them how to dance. Harold has not told his wife Vicki that he too has been laid off. Vicki sings, seemingly materialistically, "Life with Harold" while Harold agrees to join the dance line.
Jerry, Dave and Harold hold auditions. Among their finds are "A Big Black" man named Horse and well- endowed Ethan. Later, Dave sings about his chubby belly while Harold sings counterpoint to a sleeping Vicki; each singing "You Rule My World ." At practice, Harold attempts to teach the talentless guys some moves but does not make progress until he equates dance moves to sports moves ("Michael Jordan’s Ball"). In "Jeanette’s Showbiz Number," the ancient pianist describes how awful the act is. When Jerry needs a deposit to rent the performance space, his son Nathan offers up his college savings; Jerry expresses his gratitude with "Breeze Off the River ." The guys have their first un-dress rehearsal and sing about how they objectify women (and their anatomical parts) in "The Goods" only to be horrified when they realize that the women in the audience will be doing the same thing to them. Malcolm’s mother dies. At the funeral, Malcolm and Ethan "come-out" as a couple and sing "You Walk With Me ." Finally, it’s the night of the performance and after some cold feet the guys "Let It Go" the full monty.
The beauty in Watertower’s engrossing and crisp production is in Director Terry Martin’s powerful casting. As the down on his luck and in debt up to his balls Jerry, Michael Isaac grounds the show and is sexy without even trying to be. As his rotund friend Dave, Stephen Bates sheepishly reigns in his acting skills, but like Isaac has a lovely tone to his voice. Jason Kennedy (Malcolm) has had a terrific succession of supporting and leading parts in DFW theatres this year, but as Malcolm gets the opportunity to stand still and beautifully belt out the power ballad "You Walk with Me ." Goosebumps. Bryan Dobson is both hilarious and poignant as Harold. Harold is afraid to tell Vicki he lost his job because he thinks she loves him for what he can buy for her. It was inspired to cast the diminutive in stature Scott Zenreich to play Ethan (he with the huge schlong). Zenreich’s attempts to dance up the wall ala Donald O’Connor in Singing in The Rain are literal laugh out loud moments. Finally, as Horse, Guinn Powell shows off an ingenious, intrinsic fact about this brilliant show: even small imperfections tend to enhance, instead of distract from this production about out of work, every-day-schmoes. Powell sings a bit flat but has excellent stage presence and impressive moves. Speaking of moves, Christopher J Deaton makes some memorable ones as the hunky, cut, in-your-face Chippendale dancer, Keno.
For a show about men stripping, Yazbek and McNally have included some significant roles for women. Mary Gilbreath Grim (Georgie) and Jenny Thurman (Vicki) as Dave and Harold’s wives, respectively, are both knockouts. They both soar in the reprise of "You Rule My World" late in the show as they proclaim their love to their husbands unconditionally. Dallas theatre vet Pam Dougherty steals the show as the been-there-seen that, flask-guzzling, chain-smoking pianist Jeanette.
In today’s economy, The Full Monty may be more relevant than it was when it first appeared on stage. Everyone has either been or knows someone who has been unemployed. As provocative as the title and premise seems to be, The Fully Monty is a study of human nature, self-doubt and self-realization. It is also a show about marriage and love in good times and bad, for richer or for poorer. Finally, the show examines the concepts of friendship and bonding far deeper and richer than any show in recent memory. You may think you are coming to see a show about some guys going "the full monty," but when that crucial moment comes you will be rooting for these guys, not laughing at them.
The Full Monty runs through August 15, 2010. WaterTower Theatre 15650 Addison Rd., Addison, TX 75001 For more information visit http://www.watertowertheatre.org/mainstage.asp