The Jefferson Performing Arts Society begins its final weekend run of "The Full Monty" tomorrow night, having performed the show last night in Hammond at the Columbia Theater for the Performing Arts. The last two performances will be held at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center at East Jefferson High School on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
When "The Full Monty" opened on Broadway almost 13 years ago, it was doing massive business for a number of reasons. The book by Terrance McNally is full of very funny situations and scenes with most scenes boasting testosterone levels at full tilt. Few musicals offer an opportunity for regular Joes to belt about unemployment, depression, beer and what women's body parts are most attractive to them. The music and lyrics by Michael Yazbek are also clever and oftentimes catchy. Take "Big Ass Rock" for example. Here's a gem of a song where two friends competitively discuss how they'd assist their mutual friend in committing suicide with murderously funny results.
Anyone who has seen the successful British film on which "The Full Monty" is adapted knows the premise of the out-of-work and down on their luck steelworkers was altered for American audiences so that the musical is in Buffalo, New York rather than Sheffield, England. The remainder of the original premise is fairly the same, although the names of the characters have also been Americanized.
Both Jerry Lee Leighton as director and Karen Hebert as choreographer are to be complimented for putting together a fine production. Executive artistic director Dennis Assaf served as musical conductor.
Keith Warren plays Jerry Lukowski, a good guy who has been stripped of his job, his ability to see his son and his feeling of self-worth. He has nothing left to lose. He concocts a scheme in which the "strippee" becomes a stripper. One night and he'll have a way to catch up with his child support payments and see his son and the others will get backon their feet. Warren's character teams up at first with paunchy Dave Bukatinsky, played by John North. This is the most important of the relationships within the eventual group of six guys who need to learn how to dance and make their moves for a one-time performance where they promise to one-up the Chippendales by giving their audience "the full monty," which becomes code for completely nude.
After saving Malcolm Macgregor, played by John Michael Haas from his suicide attempt, the group rope Harold Nichols, played by Daniel Lund, IV into becoming the group's choregrapher. Matias Grau is Ethan Girard, an overachiever who is recruited to join because of his endowment. That leaves their "Big Black Man" of Noah "Horse" Simmons, played by Hassan Allen, as the last of the sextet of strippers.
On the distaff side, the men are joined by Jeannette Burmeister, a stage veteran who agrees to help provide accompaniment to them during their practice phase. Claire Conti is a delight in that role, especially in her "Jeannette's Showbiz Number." Morganna May Bridgers, as Georgie, Dave's wife, and Lynne Bordelon as Jerry's wife provide comic relief and Esther Covington, who also serves as music director for this production sings "You Rule My World" as Harold's wife Vicki along with Dave's wife Georgie. Also, Jessica Mixon turned in a fine performance as Jerry's sometimes girlfriend Estelle.
There are some great numbers including "The Goods" in which the men fantasize about women and, later, the women turn the tables and berate the pudgy, undeveloped would-be strippers.
The last time this show played in New Orleans, it was presented at the more intimate Le Petit Theatre. Although some of the vocals barely fill the massive East Jefferson auditorium, there is a lot to be said for those that haven't seen "The Full Monty" to check out the show, especially the closing number "Let It Go," in which all is truly revealed.
"The Full Monty" plays it final two shows on Saturday night at 7:30 pm. and on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m.