The Full Monty. Book by Terrence McNally. Music and lyrics by David Yazbek. Adapted from The Full Monty by Simon Beaufoy. Directed by Chris Baldock. Musical director Katrina Tang. Choreography by Jordan Kelly. Supa Productions. The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, Queanbeyan. Until March 23. theq.net.au.
The Full Monty started life in 1997 as a small and somewhat gentle film about some post-Thatcher unemployed steel workers turning to stripping in order to earn some money.
The 2000 musical is larger, less subtle and set in Buffalo in the US rather than Sheffield in the north of England that used to produce steel and a lot of our cutlery. There are certainly losses in the translation. And the sound on opening night was not kind to the words of the songs.
But the look of the piece is suitably industrial and the basic story is retained. Jerry (Dave Smith), behind on child support and scrabbling to retain contact with his young son Nathan (Callum Doherty on opening night; also played by Josh Nicholls), comes up with the idea of forming a male strippers act. He ropes in a number of his unemployed mates and soon they are in chaotic rehearsal.
Eventually they will find themselves having to up the ante by offering a show in which they will go beyond the Chippendales’ act the women so admire and take off everything: go the "full monty". Cole Hilder’s suitably outrageous male stripper Keno is an initial source of inspiration.
Smith gives a likeable performance as the feckless Jerry, well supported by Doherty as Nathan. Max Gambale is good and somewhat touching as Dave, very concerned about the shape his body isn’t in. Michael Jordan sketches well the insecurities of unemployed foreman Harold, who has yet to tell his luxury-loving wife Vicki (Kirrily Cornwell) that he has no job.
Bailey Lutton makes a sensitive Malcolm, particularly in his singing at his mother’s funeral and in the discovery of his sexuality with Ethan (Jake Fraser). The latter has a great running joke in his attempts to emulate Donald O’Connor’s walking up the wall routine in Singin' in the Rain. Garrett Kelly is nicely deadpan as Horse, probably the only true dancer in Jerry’s group but slowing down through age.
The women get less to do, and despite the assertions in It’s a Women’s World led by Max’s wife Georgie (Emma White) there’s a certain amount of "standing by your man" going on. Both White’s Georgie and Cornwell’s Vicki come up trumps when the plot requires it. The outcome with Dave’s ex-wife Pam (Sarah Hull) is less conventionally romantic; she has moved on and son Nathan may very well be moving on with her.
But Lauren Nihill fires up the show with a top performance as the wisecracking, theatre-savvy, piano pounding Jeanette, a character clearly roped in to help drive the second half of The Full Monty as a musical since she does not appear in the original film. A cigarette droops from her mouth and the bottle and the anecdotes are never far away as she drives the group, now billed as Hot Metal, to their climactic performance and the reveal that the audience is waiting for.
Supa’s production has bags of energy. Just don’t expect it to quite have the magic of the film.