R5 Theater Review

Brave performers at the Westchester Broadway Theatre go “The Full Monty.”

Walking into the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of “The Full Monty” is a bit of an intimidating prospect. The theater’s so small, the stage is so close, and, by the second scene, it’s clear that there’s really not much separating the audience from the muscle-bound, G-string-clad actors dancing on stage. Are they really going to go all the way? And would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

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The production, fortunately, is a very good thing. Based on the multi-award-winning British film of the same name, the musical follows six good-hearted but not especially well-proportioned men living in Buffalo, New York. When the local steel mill shuts down, the men are left jobless and, while walking past a standing-room-only Chippendales-style show, best friends Jerry Lukowski (Peter James Zielinski) and Dave Bukatinsky (Tad Wilson) hatch a plan to earn some much-needed cash—and, oddly enough, regain their dignity—by putting on their own all-male revue. It’s your typical band-together, come-from-behind underdog story, but it’s done with enough depth and sweetness—plus just the right dose of sauciness—to be a genuinely charming play.

Moving the setting to gritty Buffalo from the movie’s location of Sheffield, England, flavors the stage version a decidedly un-English sense of gallows humor. Take, for instance, the words of Jeanette, an elderly professional musician who comes out of retirement to help the boys. “I’m thinking of getting back into show business,” she says. “I called my agent. They told me he’s dead.” The guys deal with weighty issues in the play: feelings of helplessness and failure, worries about parenthood, and even body-image problems, but the overriding tone of droll, self-effacing humor manages to keep the production light and entertaining.

The music is an improvement over the movie’s score as well. As fun as it was to see the men on screen shake their stuff to cheesy disco songs like Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff,” the songs in the musical take on a refreshingly sophisticated tack—while still maintaining the darkly comedic pitch of the rest of the play. Up-tempo numbers and ensemble songs, especially “The Goods” and the racy “Let It Go,” are instilled with the same spirited whimsy.

Lucky for us, “The Full Monty” is going to be sticking around the Westchester Broadway Theatre for a while: shows continue until November 19, then return December 28 through January 20, 2007. Those who are looking for a laugh—and aren’t afraid of a little skin—should definitely check this one out. Um, no pun intended.

The Full Monty
Westchester Broadway Theatre
1 Broadway Plaza, Elmsford
(914) 592-2222

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