Half the stage battle is finding the right match between show and theater company, and The Pollard Theatre's production of the musical "The Full Monty" is almost a complete triumph. It is exactly the type of musical that plays well at The Pollard.
This musical version of "The Full Monty" is based closely on the 1997 British film of the same title, which refers to what Americans would call full-frontal nudity. The film is set in Sheffield, England, but the musical takes place in Buffalo, N.Y., both cities serving as middle-class, economically depressed settings for the story.
In Buffalo, six laid-off steel workers feel heavy pressure at home to make some money. Jerry Lukowski (Paul Gebb) considers menial, wage-earning jobs to be beneath his dignity, so a performance by Chippendales-like dancers inspires him to stage a show featuring regular Buffalo guys. Jerry figures he can clear $50,000 on the show, but it must exceed what the professionals do, so he promises that the Buffalo dancers will give audiences the full monty.
Although you are not likely to walk out of the theater humming any of the tunes, the serviceable score and lyrics by David Yazbek are highly engaging, as is the acerbically humorous book by playwright Terrence McNally. "Bad-Ass Rock" is a paean to suicide told with deliciously dark humor. In "Big Black Man," Marcellus Hankins as Noah "Horse" Simmons had the audience clapping in rhythm at the reviewed performance. With its twisted irony, "You Rule My World" is one of the stranger ballads in musical theater, and in the second act, it is reprised as a sweet love song. The poignant "You Walk with Me" could be a stand-alone standard outside the context of the show.
The cast does a remarkably fine job. In addition to Gebb and Hankins, the other lovable galoots are played by Doug Ford, Greg Hopkins, Charlie Monnot and Nick Echols. As two of the guys' wives, Stefani Fortney and Cory King show depth of character when standing honorably by their men. Brenda Williams plays a seasoned showbiz doyenne who coaches the boys, and Garret Davis plays Jerry's 12-year-old son, Nathan.
Oddly, in an age when rock-influenced musicals often blast audiences out of the theater, you almost have to strain to hear what should be the rousing finale, "Let It Go," although the band, led by Louise Goldberg, does rock. But, Pollard seems to have greatly reduced its usual sound problems with this production.
So much of this slightly bowdlerized production is well-done that it is disappointing to report that director W. Jerome Stevenson loses his nerve in the denouement. "The Full Monty" is supposed to end with the actors appearing onstage in, well, the full monty, while strategically placed lighting prevents the shocking of anyone's modesty.
In this production, the lighting is done correctly, but the actors wear flesh-colored thongs, which fool no one. It is the theatrical equivalent of coitus interruptus, and the staging makes one think the show should be titled "Not Quite the Full Monty."
The Full Monty stages at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 27 at The Pollard Theatre, 120 W. Harrison in Guthrie.