I’ve seen five (count’em) five productions of The Full Monty, and I have to tell you,
this is a show I just keep liking more and more. My love affair with TFM (well, it was
just a “like affair” at first) began with the first national tour and continued a couple
years later with a fine non-Equity tour. Then came two large-theater regional
productions, including this year’s superb Musical Theater West version, and finally,
yesterday, my first 99-seat TFM, a production which marks a hugely successful
debut for the just formed Theatre7.

A bit of Theatre7 background.  Earlier this year, Chromolume Theatre Company
announced its 2007-8 season, which was to begin with The Full Monty. Casting
had been completed when, sadly, the plug was pulled on the Chromolume. In
the best MGM tradition, cast members wanted so much for the show to go on
that they formed their own company, Theatre7, found a live-theater-loving
executive producer, Marc Mercury, and an imaginative young director, Kristie
Rutledge, and wonder of wonders, not only has the show gone on, but Theatre7
has put together a Full Monty which has exceeded all my expectations.  This is an
exciting, often electric production, proving that even on a budget, Full Monty is a

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, TFM was a popular British film
about a group of unemployed factory workers who decide to stage a male strip
show in a last ditch effort to put some money in the bank and regain their self-
respect. Playwright Terrence McNally (of whom I’m a huge fan) transposed the
action to Buffalo, New York, and composer/lyricist David Yazbek (pre-Dirty Rotten
Scoundrels) added a bunch of jazz-rock tunes.  The result was a Broadway hit
whose only misfortune was to vie for Tonys in the year of the Producers’
juggernaut.  No matter.  This possibly shortened Broadway run just meant that
regional theaters large and small could stage their own productions that much
earlier, each adding its own distinctive stamp.

Theater 7’s “stamp” begins as soon as the audience enters the theater. The
Buffalo gals (wives of the out of work factory men) are milling among us, out for a
girls’ night at Chippendales, downing shot after shot after shot, and eagerly
proclaiming their excitement at the upcoming arrival of the burlesque boys.  Even
the pre-show announcements (cell phones/exits, etc.) are part of the show, given
by Georgie Bukatinsky as she leads her gal pals in cheering on the arrival of male
stripper extraordinaire Buddy (Keno) Walsh.  

Theater 7’s Full Monty, more than any other I’ve seen, features performers who look
as though they really could be the characters they are portraying. True, a few of
them are a bit too young for their parts, but that smidgen of disbelief is soon
suspended. These are men who don’t spend all day in the gym; some carry a few
extra pounds, one is kind of skinny, none looks ready to play romantic lead in a
Broadway show, which has sometimes been the case with other productions. Their
wives are cute and sexy but in a blue collar kind of way.  These are actors who not
only look the parts; they’re also a very talented bunch of performers, bringing to
their roles their own personal stamps.

Sheldon Morley is the first Jerry I’ve seen who truly looks the part.  Only marginally in
better shape that his best friend Dave (aka Fat Bastard), this is one Jerry whom we
believe when he says that he’s no match for Keno in the “bod” department.  
Morley is also an excellent actor, especially in his touching scenes with his young
son Nathan (a promising professional debut for Mitchell Hart), and his soaring
rendition of Breeze off the River is moving indeed.  Morley is matched by Ed
McBride as Dave, convincing as a man who worries that, jobless, he can no longer
be the husband his wife married. As suicidal Malcolm, the sensational Timothy
Hearl reinvents the role.  His eyes fill with wonder at the discovery that yes, indeed,
he does have friends, as the audience’s eyes fill with delight at his pathetic
attempt at a pelvic thrust.  Ben Euphrat is sweetly charming as Ethan. (He’s the
one who tries to imitate Donald O’Connor—by jumping into walls.) Hearl and
Euphrat’s duet You Walk With Me had me in tears. Keith E. Wright is a dynamic
Noah aka Horse, who walks with the aid of a cane but then uses it as a prop to his
impressive dance moves in Big Black Man. (This is a show in which every song is a
winner.) Completing the out of work sextet is the always reliable Richard Van
Slyke, suitably uptight as Harold, the only white collar member of the group, who
has been pretending to go to work these past six months.

The wives have less to do than the men, but they are believably brought to blue
collar life. Aileen-Marie Scott and Ellen Caranasos (as Georgie and Vicki) sing an
emotional reprise of You Rule My World (first sung by their husbands), and Renee
Scott as Pam (a great match for Morley) shows us a woman who still cares about
her ex-husband, just not in the way he would wish. Meghan Olson has fun playing
the slutty (pardon my French) Estelle.

Suzan Solomon is a hoot as Broadway baby Jeanette. Brassy, sassy, and with a
great loud cackle of a laugh, Solomon steals scenes from the moment she enters
and sets up a troll doll village atop her piano, pine tree and all.  She belts out
Estelle’s signature number, entitled Jeannette’s Showbiz Number, with the best of
them.  As stripper Keno, Jonathan Beran not only has the hot bod the role
demands, but he is the first Keno I can recall who has truly convinced me that he is
a gay man, out and proud.  The rest of the cast do fine work, some of them in
several roles. They are Anthony Sucato (Teddy), Paul Dawson (Reg), Jen Gabbert
(Susan), Lisa Louise Christensen (Toni), and Lauren Blair (Betty).

Blair also deserves highest marks as choreographer. Her dance sequences include
a 60s disco inspired Woman’s World, a dance studio sequence with a Latin beat,
the Act 1 capper Michael Jordan’s ball (in which each one of the six guys dances
in character), and the sexy finale Let It Go.  There’s also a tribute to Chicago the
Musical with the women (and Keno) dressed in sexy tight black things and singing
The Goods, a la Cell Block Tango.

Director Rutledge adds many clever touches to this production, starting with the
pre-show Ladies’ Night partying. There’s also a cute moment where four of the
guys spy on another of their bunch from behind a half open door, heads stacked
one atop another.  I especially liked the way Rutledge staged the scene where
Ethan takes Malcolm’s hand at Malcolm’s mother’s funeral, the two standing a
level above the other mourners,  face to face and clearly a couple.

Musical director Bill Wolf on piano, Justin Arman on drums and J. Michaels on bass
somehow manage to sound much bigger and brassier than just three instruments.
Chris Singleton’s lighting design is mostly fine, though the choice of a climactic
blackout is a not terribly effective substitute for the bright backlighting that allows
a big theater audience to imagine the Full Monty without requiring the actors to
truly show the goods. The uncredited factory-like set design is simple but effective,
the addition of a few pieces of furniture or props suggesting the many set

Though the previous Chromolume Theatre Company productions which I saw all
had much to recommend in them, none can compare with the all around
excellence of Theatre7’s Full Monty. An exciting new musical theater company
has been born!

Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
   December 1, 2007
Photos: Jeff Murray

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