At first glance The Full Monty may seem like an impossible choice for a family-friendly dinner theater to produce, but the Candlelight Pavilion has brought it to Claremont: unedited, raw and real. A risqué and risky show for any theater, this is an especially daring project where the audience’s proximity to the stage makes each production up close and personal.
The Full Monty, (book by Terrence McNally and music by David Yazbek), based on the 1997 hit film of the same name, has been updated with new music and a new story location. While it is not for the easily offended (strong language and mature themes—don’t say we didn’t warn ya!) Candlelight’s production—directed by John LaLonde, music direction by Doug Austin and choreographed by John Vaughan—offers 2 hours of high-quality performance.
The Full Monty opens in a strip club in Buffalo, New York, where it’s “Ladies Night Out” and the women of the town are out paying big bucks to see a professional male stripper. By contrast, their husbands are receiving unemployment checks after the local steel factory closes. Jerry Lukowski (Allen Everman) is the Average Joe, divorced, depressed and he can’t afford to make child support payments to keep custody of his son. Dave Bukatinsky (Topher Mauerhan) is overweight and feeling feminized and emasculated by his lack of a job and the fear that his wife no longer finds him attractive.
The two scenes collide with a chance encounter with the stripper, and Jerry and Dave hit upon a scheme to boost their self-confidence along with earning some much needed cash. They plan to produce and star in their own strip show showing off their “real man” bodies—man boobs and all. When no one seems interested (go figure), they boast they will go “the Full Monty”—a brilliant threat since the stunt successfully pulls in a big crowd.
Vaughan’s choreography is clean, crisp and perfect for this production; from the musical number “Scrap” to the intricate weaving moves in “Michael Jordan’s Ball.” Allen Everman, as Jerry, is perfect in the role with impressive vocals and a smooth, unaffected performance. Pete Cole, as Noah “Horse” T. Simmons, is a delight as his eyes expressively entertain the audience through the unabashedly Afro-philic song “Big Black Man.” Also notable is a refreshing performance delivered by Louis Pardo in the role of Malcolm, whose beautiful ballad in Act Two softened and sweetened the show.
Beth Mendoza’s performance as Jeanette Burmeister, the rehearsal pianist and showbiz veteran, was by far the most remarkable and entertaining of the entire production. Normally the part of Jeanette is not considered a main character, but in Mendoza’s capable hands she made it one.
But in the end, The Full Monty pays tribute to how the out-of-shape and the down-and-out can overcome doughy flesh and adipose fat to become—if not sexy—scintillating.
The Full Monty thru Sept. 20 at the Candlelight Pavilion, 455 Foothill Blvd., Claremont, (909) 626-3296; www.candlelightpavilion.com. Tickets (dinner and a show) $48-$75.