01 Jul ASPEN DAILY NEWS: “The Full Monty’s” Glimmering Layers: Theatre Aspen Brings Tony Award-Winning Musical to Stage
Spoiler alert: The men bare it all in Theatre Aspen’s production of “The Full Monty.” But that’s where audience expectations should end.
Anyone looking for a simple romp from the rehearsal room to the strip club spotlight should check their assumptions at the door. It’s certainly a frolic to get there, but there are enough poignant moments to make the production more than an excuse to get scantily clad men on stage.
But rewind for those who know nothing.
“The Full Monty” is a musical, a book and a movie. The movie was released in 1997, and three years later the musical and lyrics were written by David Yazbek (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Women on the Verge”). On Broadway, it won 10 Tony Awards and 12 Drama Desk nominations, wowing crowds from all walks of life.
It’s set in Buffalo, N.Y. The era is pre-Great Recession, but even so the local men are grappling with now-defunct steel mills and the loss of their income and gain of spare time. These are Budweiser-drinking, denim-wearing, potty-mouthed guys. They sing about being “Scrap” and “want to understand/How I got to be a loser/And I used to be a man.”
All of the typical symptoms come with this shift: physical fights, drinking, relationship troubles, weight issues, suicide and custody battles. These are some serious, universal plights and they plague the men of Buffalo from the start of the play, but their comical approach to dealing with them keeps the audience engaged and light-hearted instead of depressed.
Per usual, creativity is born out of necessity.
The main characters, Jerry Lukowski (Tally Sessions) and Dave Bukatinksy (Dane Agostinis) flounder while their women — terry-cloth-jumpsuit-wearing with long nails, big earrings and smacking lips — seek entertainment in a local Chippendales strip club. During an accidental eavesdropping session, the men realize just how dire the situation is and determine to turn things around for themselves at any cost. Lukowski must fight for his son, who is being pulled away by the boy’s mother, and Bukatinsky for his marriage.
It dawns on them that if the women in their town will spend money to see men dance, then perhaps they’ll pay to see men they know — the ones they’ve even already seen naked — do the same thing.
What ensues is a roll-out of funny and entertaining situations, from well-delivered one-liners to physical comedy sketches, mostly revolving around dancing. The showtune names “Big Black Man” and “Michael Jordan’s Ball,” both performed in act one, should offer ample amusement alone.
Touching moments between parents, lovers, friends and seeming enemies continue to pepper the plotline, providing some substance to what could just be a cheeky comedy.
The cast members, many of which make their Theatre Aspen debut in this production, have a long list of credits to their names and that experience translates to the stage. The strong leads keep the storyline rolling, punchy and even sardonic, while supporting characters, like piano player Jeanette Burmeister (Mary Stout) and Vicki Nichols (Michele Ragusa), provide enough comic relief to keep the whole plot an ongoing delight.
It’s a race to the climax for the characters and the audience, both of which know how it ends. For those on stage, anticipation and nerves build as the men await pulling out the “full monty” for a one-night-only performance to raise money. The audience eagerly awaits for characters to fix themselves, and their figures, in time for the for the big reveal.
“The Full Monty” is an entertaining ride, and anyone going into it fully expecting an easy and glorified striptease should realize that people usually have more layers.
The Full Monty
Presented by Theatre Aspen
Through Aug. 9
Upcoming shows: June 27, July 3, 4 (6:30 p.m.), 5, 7, 11, 14
“Little Women” Opens July 1
The Broadway musical “Little Women,” based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott of the same name, welcomes sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March to the Theatre Aspen stage beginning July 1. This family-friendly production offers a balance to the rated-R “Full Monty” performance, and the showtimes rotate between 10 a.m. and evening so that adults can enjoy it too. Upcoming performances are: July 1 (6:30 p.m.), July 2 (6:30 p.m.), July 3 (10 a.m.) and July 5, 10 a.m.