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THE FULL MONTY delights sold out audiences at Subversive

THE BASICS: THE FULL MONTY, the 2000 musical with book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by David Yazbek, presented by Subversive Theatre, directed by Susan Forbes, opened on April 13 and runs through May 12, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3 (Take grandma. She’ll love it. Honest.) at The Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Avenue, third floor, elevator provided; water for $1.00. (462-5549). Plenty of parking space. www.subversivetheatre.org Runtime: a little under 3 hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  The Subversive Theatre’s tradition of exposing inequality (not that size matters) as part of their “Workers’ Power Play” series continues with THE FULL MONTY, based on the 1997 British movie that starred Tom Wilkinson. With the action moved to Buffalo by the multiple Tony award winning Terrence McNally, we follow six unemployed men, four of them former steel workers, who, at the end of their rope, decide in desperation to form a male striptease act called “Hot Metal” that will be better than “The Chippendales” (whom their working wives are willing to spend $50 to see) because they will “go the fully monty” (strip all the way). Although dealing with subjects such as working class culture, chronic unemployment, suicide, gender issues, body shaming, fathers’ rights, and depression, it IS a comedy with deliciously funny songs by David Yazbek.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Right away, let’s start paying more attention to composer and lyricist Yazbek. You may know him from his 2010 DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS but you will be hearing more about his 2017 musical THE BAND’S VISIT which is getting a lot of attention in New York starring Tony Shaloub. And, you’ll have a local opportunity to see his 2017 musical WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN at UB’s Center for the Arts, April 26 through May 6. Now if you hadn’t heard about THE FULL MONTY musical, it could be that it was overshadowed in the same 2000-2001 Broadway season that gave us Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS.

THE FULL MONTY is a fast-paced musical with a lot of moving parts and with 17 actors, as with penises, some are going to be “more equal than others.” The central character in the show – “Jerry Lukowski” –  is played by Anthony Alcocer with the physical intensity we’ve come to expect (last seen as “Judas” in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and before that as “Jackie” in THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT).  Ladies, if you’re going to the show to see some beefcake, the well-inked Alcocer won’t disappoint. And he can sing, too.

Ladies, if you’re going to the show to see some beefcake, the well-inked Alcocer won’t disappoint. And he can sing, too.

When he is joined on stage by the very experienced, Artie award winning actors Jeffrey Coyle as his best friend “Dave Bukatinski” and later by Pamela Rose Mangus as “Jeanette,” the washed-up-name-dropping-chain-smoking-foul-mouthed piano accompanist, things move along nicely.

The wives, alternately giddy when they go to see the Chippendales and sing “It’s a Woman’s World” are also suffering, hurt and angry, as they see their men sink into the depression of long-term unemployment. And Katherine Parker as Pam Lukowski, Allie Griffin as Georgie Bukatinski, and Jaime Nablo as Vicki Nichols are able to convey these mood swings. Sometimes the smallest gesture is memorable, and that happens when Ms. Griffin, as Georgie, watching her husband demonstrate some dance moves, moves herself from despair, to rage, to hope, to lust in a few seconds, all with her eyes. Very impressive.

The lyrics are one of the big delights of the show, full of assonance and rhymes that are unexpected.

MONTY was nominated in 2001 for a number of Tony Awards. David Yazbek did win the Drama Desk award for Outstanding Music but was only nominated for Outstanding Lyrics. I would have reversed that. The lyrics are one of the big delights of the show, full of assonance and rhymes that are unexpected.  For example, in “It’s a Woman’s World” (noting the contrast between the traditional “housewife” / kitchen / cooking references and the title of the song) Georgie sings:

Back at home my libido is asleep / Nothing stirring up the batter / Now I know all I needed was a heap / Of dancing beefcake on a platter.

That’s good, but what really sets Yazbek apart as a lyricist is how he makes you wait for the rhyme, as the women continue:

Georgie: Let’s get sweaty and / Let’s get mean / Fire up the burner

Women: It’s a woman’s world

 Georgie: I’ll be president

Susan: I’ll be queen

 Joanie: I’ll be Tina Turner

When you read the lyrics of THE FULL MONTY on the page you’ll also notice that Yazbek has incorporated the rhythm of hip-hop and many of his songs scan like rap, a genre that is notorious for outrageous and ingenious rhymes. In the song “Man” Jerry and Dave sing about what it means to them to be a man:

And when the beef comes out / you do the carvin’ / You hate Tom Cruise / but you love Lee Marvin.

You’re a man / and that’s a bonus / ‘Cause when you’re swinging your cojones / You’ll show ’em what testosterone is.

The rest of the cast includes Thomas LaChiusa, Connor Graham, Victor Morales, Smirna Mercedes-Pèrez, Alejandro Perez (as Jerry’s son), Diane McNamara, Jaime Goldfuss, Arlynn Knauff, Benjamin Caldwell, Alfonzo Tyson, and Tim Goehrig. Their lines were clearly spoken and you could understand the lyrics to the songs and everyone stayed in character. Not always the case in small theater productions, but it was here.

Ladies, not to be cheeky, but it certainly has been ‘the season of the butt.’

Ladies, not to be cheeky, but it certainly has been “the season of the butt.” So, if you missed Andre Sills dropping trou in AN OCTOROON, Adam Hayes (twice!) in both CLEOPATRA and STRAIGHT, and Michael Seitz (full monty) in THE NANCE, well, here you can get six for the price of one. And we know that Buffalo loves a bargain.

However, as with too many Buffalo productions, where the actors on stage all have day jobs and families and finding time to rehearse is a challenge, opening night was definitely under-rehearsed, with some actors just mirroring what others were doing. Some of that might have just been opening night jitters. I understand that the second night, in the middle of an ice-storm, also saw a sold-out house. So, if you needed any proof that there is some recovery from the 2008 recession and that there is a whiff of a Buffalo renaissance, some good news is that sold-out theatrical productions are starting to pop up around town.

UP NEXT: Kelly M. Beuth directs SLUT (about our current shame culture) starring emerging student actors from Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (whose RADIUM GIRLS last year was a stellar production). SLUT runs at Subversive Theatre June 21 – July 7, 2018.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For Classical 94.5 WNED and on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists to get at answers. On “Theater Talk” his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" In every situation he's in Peter wonders: "What's the big picture here?" And, "if I had to teach this, how would I break it down to explain it?"

That's why he loves writing reviews. A show with a strong message that makes him laugh and cry and think about life is a good show. Heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM "Theater Talk" repeats Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED, the radio station where Peter is currently the afternoon drive host as well as producer and host of “Buffalo Philharmonic Live” (Sundays at 5 p.m. repeating Fridays at 10 p.m. on WNED). For the Buffalo Chamber Music Society he moderates on-stage pre-concert chats with the artists and is on-stage host of the Falletta (classical guitar) Competition.

Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business. He is currently a member of the "Artie Awards Committee."

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