Ever since the British film The Full Monty premiered in 1997, we’ve been seeing a lot of average-looking man flesh on parade. They jiggled in the Broadway musical from 2000-2002; they played coy in Los Angeles, Boston, and Tokyo. A national tour of slowly stripping steelworkers even paused at 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, sending the local cadre of Ladies Who Lunch wild.
But the great thing about The Full Monty is how well it translates to a smaller stage, like it does in Village Theatre’s new production. You’re not going to find a whole lot of believable underdogs on the Great White Way—but there are plenty of talented, under-the-radar gents in our region. And director Jerry Dixon recruits some outstanding character actors to play the six unemployed/pudgy/pigeon-chested/slightly daft and desperate men from Buffalo who bare all to make money and regain some respect. (After swallowing heaping doses of pride, of course.)
Star among them is Dane Stokinger as ringleader Jerry Lukowski, a scruffy-is-sexy mill worker who manages to be both gruff and endearing—a Buffalo Bills fan with a lilting falsetto. Stokinger already impressed theatergoers in Issaquah with his turn as Elvis in Million Dollar Quartet, and proves he can carry a show here. Not that he has to. This is ultimately an ensemble effort, with strong comedic performances by all the down-on-their-luck Monty men—Stokinger, Terence Kelley, Kevin High, Michael Nicholas, Bob De Dea, and Troy Wageman—and scene-stealers Dan Conner as a Chippendales dancer with 8-pack abs and Ellen McClain as the grizzled old showbiz gal who gets six men with 12 left feet to dance.
The show needed tightening on opening night—stumbling over lines does not add to the underdog charm—but it’s possible to forgive when you listen to the smartass lyrics by David Yazbek, or look closely at the rusted realism of Steven Capone’s steel mill sets. It’s not just a strip show. It’s the whole…package.
The Full Monty runs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through Oct 24, and in Everett from Oct 29-Nov 21.