The smartly written and composed "The Full Monty," now in its regional premiere in a mostly solid production at Village Theatre, turns working-stiff despair into humane, buoyant musical comedy.

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PERFORMANCE REVIEW |

The Broadway musical”The Full Monty” zooms in on unemployed millworkers in Buffalo, N.Y., during 1992. But in some respects it reflects conditions in Anywhere, USA, in 2010.

Unemployment is high, triggering marital discord and future shock. And men feel their manhood diminished by a lack of prospects and cold, hard cash.

Bummer? Certainly. But this smartly written and composed show, now in its regional premiere in a mostly solid production at Village Theatre, turns working-stiff despair into humane, buoyant musical comedy. And it has the same teasing randiness and heart as the hit film it’s based on (also titled “The Full Monty”), about laid-off steelworkers in Sheffield, England.

Jerry Dixon directs a capable cast at Village, in the frankly bawdy piece. (Limited male nudity, lots of R-rated wisecracks.) The show’s pacing could be peppier, but the cast is energetic and appealing.

Dane Stokinger plays unemployed Jerry, a flawed protagonist, to say the least. Jerry adores his teen son Nathan (cute Jack Holmes) but has a big chip on his shoulder and is way behind in child support payments to his fed-up ex-wife, Pam (Ashley FitzSimmons).

To get out of arrears and keep his parental rights, Jerry hatches a fairly preposterous plan: produce a one-night-only, high-priced male strip show with other laid-off, “regular” guys.

Much of the humor in Terrence McNally’s snappy libretto, and David Yazbek’s jazzy music and sly lyrics, derives from these would-be Chippendales confronting shattered self-esteem, stage fright and macho double standards to pull together their, ahem, bare-all show. (Actually, not quite all.)

Along the way they mend broken relationships and (in one case) find new love.

The kick-butt score gets a good airing under Tim Symons’ baton, acing the hip, horn-driven charts.

Some highlights in the shapely score: the opening ensemble lament in a desolate union hall, “Scrap.” The funky ditty “Big Black Man,” delivered with panache by Terence Kelley. The female roar of emancipation, “It’s a Woman’s World,” led with verve by Kathy Henson Gehrig as Georgie, wife of Jerry’s buddy Dave (endearing Kevin High).

And there’s a stirring ballad: “Breeze off the River,” sung with conviction by the consistently good Stokinger.

Some comic bits need a brighter, sharper touch. And Dixon’s choreography (apart from the naughty stripteases) is rather lackluster.

If “The Fully Monty” has a fail-safe comic engine, it’s the old piano pro Jeanette.

This droll, C-list trouper, who joins the strip act, recalls brushes with Sinatra and Dino, and doesn’t mince words when assessing her very amateur colleagues. As portrayed by Ellen McLain, she rocks.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com