Lucky VIP guests got a sneak peak at “The Full Monty”, in a gala fundraiser for the grand Sebastiani Theatre on the Sonoma Plaza. Held on the stage at Sebastiani Theatre the seats were filled with animated guests, many of whom had lingered over the Full Monty calendars for sale on the way in. The mood was festive, vibrant and maybe even a little raucous as the lights dimmed and catcalls commenced.
“The Full Monty” musical, adapted from the 1997 British film, has been Americanized to place the unemployed steel workers in Buffalo instead of Sheffield, England but otherwise the plot will be familiar to anyone who enjoyed the film, with six men desperate men clinging to their masculinity by pursuing the unlikely prospects of stripping like the Chippendales, but taking it a bit further by stripping all the way. There was plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’ from the audience, and lots of laughs, but along the way there were serious messages, including a man’s love for his son, his need to prove himself, issues with body image, suicide, marital strife and, ultimately, the value of friendship.
The large cast filled the stage at times and there was a lot of coming and going of sets, equipment and actors, which gave the musical a sense of immediacy. Scot Herrmann, who played Jerry Lukowski, in the lead role, gave it his all with a strong performance, while Jerry's best friend David Bukatinsky, was played by Michael RJ Campbell with a great deal of sensitivity. James Bock, as Malcolm MacGregor, had one of the strongest voices of the cast, along with Arnold House, who channeled Horse and kept the crowd in stitches. Sheila Lichirie, as Jeanette Burmeister cracked everyone up with her spot-on performance of the wise-cracking piano player. Oliver French showed mature timing and presence for his young age as Jerry Lukowski’s son, Nathan. A standout dancer was James Nassef, who played Ethan Girard with grace and fluidity, and served as Dance Captain for this production. During the finale the crowd went wild when the cast was joined on stage by a boisterous group of scantily clad local celebrities, including the venerable mayor, Tom Rouse, 1964 Olympic gold medalist and physician, John Emery, actor Squire Fridell, physician and musician Brian Sebastian, and businessmen Michael Benziger and Len Handeland.
Directed by Cat Austin, whose “Cabaret” won “Best Live Show” award for “Best of Sonoma Valley 2013, and performed by the cast of the Experiential Theater Company the show will run from June 7 to 29 in its regular location at Andrews Hall in the the Sonoma Community Center.
The opening night fundraiser supported the Sebastiani Theatre, one of the crown jewels among the Sonoma Plaza historic buildings. Originally built in 1934 by Samuele Sebastiani it was a state-of-the-art theater when it opened more than 75 years ago. Featuring oak staves salvaged from a Sacramento brewery for the railings and doors, mosaic tiling laid in the long entry way and a 60- by 80-foot stage, the theater was special from the beginning. However, a chronic problem through the years was that funds were rarely, if ever, set aside for maintenance. The Sebastiani family eventually sold the theater and it is now managed by a non-profit organization, the Sebastiani Theatre Foundation. “The Full Monty” gala fundraiser, and others, goes a long way toward keeping the theater open for community performances, theater productions and films.
“The Full Monty” is the third series of live theater performances presented by the Sonoma Theatre Alliance during the Festival of Theater 2014. The Sonoma Theatre Alliance, a consortium of North Bay-based theater companies, supports member companies by providing the administrative functions necessary to put on shows, freeing creative minds to do what they do best. The 2014 Festival of Theatre includes eight plays presented by six different companies , generally Thursday through Saturday evenings and a Sunday matinee. In addition, on Monday-Wednesday Sonoma Nights Showcase is presented, a series of intimate performances that includes music, cabaret, readings and more. Jaime Love, a Sonoma theater regular for years, is the Executive Director.
For a rollicking, raucous good time see “The Full Monty” in Sonoma starting this weekend.
“The Full Monty” is presented by the Experiential Theater Company
Rotary Stage, Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center
276 East Napa Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
Sonoma Valley Box Office
“The Full Monty” runs June 7-29, 2014
“The Full Monty” is presented by special arrangement with Music Theatre International.
Book by Terrence McNally; score by David Yazbek, based on the Oscar-winning motion picture. Directed by Cat Austin.