Unemployed steelworkers decide to make money stripping. The guys hatch a scheme to provide erotic entertainment for one night only. They may not have the professional panache of the Chippendales but they are ready to take it all off. They will give the ladies ‘the full monty.‘ The gimmick of this movie turned musical is playfully titillating. Ordinary-looking men getting naked to pleasure the ladies. Who doesn’t love that idea? Here’s the unexpected twist… the Kokandy guys bare their hearts and souls too.
Under the musical direction of Kory Danielson, these guys are pitch perfect. From the very first song “Scrap,” I’m hooked. Garret Lutz (Jerry) and Scott Danielson (Dave) interrupt the union meeting with grumblings. They look every bit the disgruntled-blue-collar-worker yet they sound beautiful. The men are pretending to be untalented performers and that takes some heavy-duty acting because the harmonies throughout the show are extraordinary. Led by the superb vocal stylings of Lutz, this entire ensemble is top-notch
In “You Rule My World”, Danielson and Eric Lindahl (Harold) sing tenderly to their sleeping wives. The heart-tugging duet is a vulnerable love ballad. The emotional song is reprised in the second act by the wives (Marsha Harman and Collette Todd) and I get misty. In another powerhouse duet, “You Walk with Me,” George Toles (Malcom) and Greg Foster (Ethan) have this deep sentimental connection. The song is even more touching because up to that point Toles and Foster have been hilarious as the goofus duo. Toles is this nail-biting mama’s boy. And Foster is this energetic wall-climbing dreamer.
Even though the singing is a serious standout, THE FULL MONTY is definitely a comedy. The audition of Randolph Johnson (Horse) is equally funny and sultry. The velvety smooth Johnson sings and dances to “Big Black Man.” Caron Buinis (Jeanette) plays a cackling showbiz retiree helping the guys get their act together. Draped in a velour running suit, Buinis repeatedly nails the one liners. If the singing is the surprising, sexy g-string in this show, the comedy is the baggy boxers keeping it real.
Director John D. Glover is the mastermind behind this blockbuster-worthy show. Glover impressively orchestrates the action within the intimate space of Theater Wit. Scenic Designer Ashley Ann Woods creates a gritty feel of a town financially oppressed. The backdrop has moving dingy walls and a grungy urinal. The look is very dirty dude oriented. For the big number, ‘Let It Go,‘ Woods rolls out the stage as a catwalk. Glover and Choreographer Daniel Spagnuolo keep this show in-your-face especially for the front rows. The big stripping finale has the six guys singing and gyrating within grabbing distance of many of the audience members. The high-spirited ending is a dazzling climax.
The promise of nudity may get you in the door but it’s the singing that will keep you in your seats…until the curtain call, when you jump to your feet applauding. Kokandy’s THE FULL MONTY is sung to perfection.
Running Time: Two hours and forty minutes includes an intermission
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Based on the Motion Picture released by Fox Searchlight Pictures and written by Simon Beaufoy, produced by Ulberto Pasolini and directed by Peter Caltaneo
Music and lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Terrence McNally
Directed by John D. Glover
Music direction by Kory Danielson
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru April 10th
Buy Tickets www.kokandyproductions.com
Photo courtesy of Joshua Albanese Photography
For more reviews and information on Chicago theatre, visit Theatre in Chicago.