By Daniel Skora
What’s a working man to do when the steel mills have closed their doors and he’s behind in his child support payments, or he’s got a wife who’s gotten used to the finer things in life and doesn’t know that the repo man will soon be knocking at the door? Well, if you live near a club that offers Chippendale style entertainment and you happen to see a long line of ladies waiting eagerly outside the ticket window and plastered on a billboard nearby is an offer of cash to any amateurs brave enough to strut their stuff, you just might be tempted to take a stab at going starkers.
The Encore Musical Theatre is currently presenting “The Full Monty”, which in case you didn’t know is what they call it when everything in the act must go, including the g-string. Which is just what these blue-collar, mostly overweight guys from Buffalo must resort to in order to get noticed, unlike the Chippendales who close their every act just before getting to that spaghetti-thin piece of frippery that separates them from the law.
The Encore’s production is both naughty and nice. The storyline may be borderline raunchy, but much of its humor comes by way of innuendo. After seeing crowds of screaming women waiting to get into a male strip club, the show’s main character Jerry Lukowski (Eric Parker) and his buddy Dave Bukatinsky (Greg Bailey) sneak in through the club’s bathroom window to check out what the fuss is all about. There they meet Buddy “Keno” Walsh (Colby Orton), one of the performers at the club who tells them what kind of money can be made taking off your clothes for the ladies. When the two men discover that their wives, Pam (Luciana Piazza) and Georgie (Thalia V. Schramm) are frequent patrons at the club, Jerry decides to form a group and put together his own act.
Along with Dave, he cajoles Harold Nichols (Dan Morrison) who’s strapped for cash because he’s been very generous supporting the expensive tastes of his wife Vicki (Sarah Briggs). Jerry also elicits the services of “Horse” Simmons (Jordan Harris), an African-American who’s got all the latest dance moves, and Ethan Girard (Brendan Kelly), whose g-string will never be able to contain all that he’s got. Rounding out the half-dozen is Malcolm Macgregor (Matthew Pecek), a mild-mannered security guard who the guys discover as he’s trying to commit suicide. To help them rehearse, they acquire the services of Jeanette Burmeister (Gayle E. Martin) a been-there/done-that old school musician who not only accompanies the guys on piano, but is not above tossing out a good-natured sarcasm or two.
There are several subplots which lend thought-provoking overtones to the goings on. One concerns Jerry’s relationship with his son Nathan (Alejandro Cantú) and another Dave’s depression over his job loss and physical appearance. The songs are as blue collar as the union workers who sing them, with titles like “Scrap”, “Big-Ass Rock”, and “The Goods”, as in what you have to deliver in order to do the Full Monty. “Michael Jordan’s Ball” is a catchy number that shows how the guys learn to dance mimicking the famed basketball player’s on-court moves.
“The Full Monty” is sit-back-and-enjoy entertainment that will keep you laughing from the start to the bare-essentials finish. The Encore’s production is smart, lively, and sassy. It’s the guys who take the show’s final bows and they deserve all the applause they get. Parker, Bailey, Morrison, Pecek, Kelly, and Harris along with Orton are superb as they give it up (tastefully, of course) for art’s sake.
“The Full Monty” originally was a British film. It was adapted for the American stage by Terrence McNally with music and lyrics by David Yasbeck. Thalia V. Schramm and Matthew Brennan co-direct the show with Brennan also serving as choreographer. R. MacKenzie Lewis directs the five piece band and plays keyboard. Set design is by Kristen Gribbin, costumes are by Sharon Larkey Urick, and lighting is by Tyler Chinn. “The Full Monty” runs through October 22nd. Tickets are available by calling 1.734.268.6200 or online at www.theencoretheatre.org/tickets. The Encore Musical Theatre is located at 3126 Broad Street in the historic village of Dexter. Take I-96 west and exit at Baker Street.