Reviewed by Kirsten Wylder
When one is broke, and I mean dead broke, desperation can lead to extremes. If presented with the choice of losing the custody of your only child and, well, the alternative, would you? Would you take it all off to meet your financial obligation? Would you go The Full Monty? Seems kind of dark for a musical, huh? But it isn't. It is a sight to behold (as are some of the individual sights within the context of the show!)
Stages St. Louis presents the Broadway hit with humor and aplomb. The moments vary from heart wrenching to gut busting. The most painfully sincere moments are seen as the men of the now defunct Buffalo mill audition for the chance to strip for money so as to avoid working at the mall or worse, WalMart. Each auditioner's moment is simultaneously funny and sad. You want them to be good; to have that sparkle. And the more desperate the situation, the more despair there is in the dance.
Musical numbers fly by at a rapid pace and each song is understood - every word. The stories unfold and keep the audience hopeful for the ultimate payback. Musical highlights include "You Rule My World," "Breeze Off the River," "Let It Go" and my personal favorite "Big Ass Rock:" a song of friendship and the lengths one would go to for a friend. The lyrics are some of the cleverest in musical theater. And I predict that "You Walk with Me" will be the next big song for weddings. Musical Director Lisa Campbell Albert and orchestral arranger, Stuart Elmore have a great deal of which to be proud.
The cast was uniformly Herculean, with each carrying more than their weight of talent. Not a weak link in the bunch. "The Guys" who were putting it all out there consisted of Michael Halling (Jerry), Nicholas Kohn (Dave), Zachary Halley (Malcolm), Matthew Skrincosky (Ethan), Keith Tyrone (Horse), and Marc Kessler (Harold). Each brought verve and some excellent "bacting" (acting with one's backside) to the ensemble. Nicholas Kohn steals the show however, with his comedic timing and naturalism. His love song to his stomach is priceless. The rest of the supporting cast shines as well; each member singing and dancing to the audience's delight. Jenna Coker (Georgie), Heather Jane Rolff (Vicki), Erin Kelley (Pam) and Stages' shining fixture, Zoe Vonder Haar (Jeannette) adeptly take on the leading lady roles. To quote my date: "Who doesn't love some Zoe Vonder Haar?" No arguing there.
Michael Hamilton's direction was joyous to behold. There were no dead spots. Even set changes were entertaining! Stephen Bourneuf choreographed some of the most entertaining musical numbers I have had the pleasure of viewing. Choreography for "Michael Jordan's Ball", "Big Black Man" and the finale' "Let It Go" were all show stoppers and the gents proved they were hoofers as well as talented actors and singers. Six triple threats on one stage; that's a great night of entertainment.
Mark Haplin's set design was impressive; there were many set changes and they were flawless (Way to go set crew!). Matthew McCarthy's lights more than aided with the storytelling and the final tableau is beyond impressive. Lou Bird did a phenomenal job of costuming the show, from the work clothes to the rip away pants, right down to the g-strings. (Yes, ladies there are g-strings!) And gents, don't fret about the subject matter. My husband loved the show and found it very relatable. Of course, the ladies may enjoy it a tad more.
If I could change one thing it would be two words in the program: "the present." It's not dated but there are a couple of glaring anachronisms that either need to be changed or the time of the setting needs to reflect the story. Besides, the story is timeless in nature. Who hasn't been pushed to a point of near desperation at least once?
Don't deny yourself a nearly perfect evening of theater. Call Stages at 314-821-2407 or check out their website at www.stagesstlouis.com
. The Full Monty
runs through August 19 at the Robert G Reim Theater in downtown Kirkwood.