An engaging production from Venice Little Theatre.
By Kay Kipling
If you didn’t happen to catch The Full Monty in its touring production at Van Wezel some time ago or in a more recent offering at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, Venice Little Theatre is giving you another opportunity to enjoy this “feel-good” musical about down-on-their-luck men who turn their lives around with a one-night-only performance in their birthday suits.
And it is a feel-good show, despite some weaknesses in the cast and some problematic scene changes that occasionally slow things down. The book by Terrence McNally and the songs by David Yazbek manage either to avoid the obvious directions the story could go or somehow make those directions seem fresh.
The main characters here include Jerry (Lake Edwards), a divorced father with some growing up to do; Dave (Jason Brenner), whose out-of-work situation contributes to weight and marital problems; Harold (David Philip Brown ), an uptight type with a lively wife (Judith Thompson); and Malcolm (Dennis Clark), who still lives at home with his mother. Once Jerry gets the bright idea of stripping to make a financial killing, they’re joined by Ethan (Jason Kimble), Horse (Terry T-bone Rhodes) and show biz vet Jeanette (Lynne Buhle) in putting together an act they hope will gain them some respect, especially from the women in their lives.
There’s room for both comedy and pathos in this setup, and while the VLT production doesn’t reach the full potential of either, there are still some things to appreciate here. The show livens up every time Buhle or Rhodes delivers a song or a zinger, and Thompson is always engaging as a woman who enjoys life to the fullest. And Alex Vercheski (who played the same role in the Golden Apple production) turns in a believable performance as Jerry’s young son, Nathan.
The production is well directed and choreographed for the most part (by Allan Kollar and Brad Wages, respectively) with the Act I finale Michael Jordan’s Ball and, of course, the audition scene featuring the hilarious number Big Black Man among the highlights. One wishes Edwards as Jerry were a stronger singer, and that the scenic design (also by Kollar) were more convincing in its evocation of various Buffalo locales. But at the end of the evening you’re still glad these guys have made it to the stage for their big night, and that’s what counts the most.
The Full Monty runs through March 18 on VLT’s mainstage; for tickets call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com.