Corrections or additions?

This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the January 17,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Broadway Review: `Full Monty’

The 1997 British film "The Full Monty" was

an unexpected hit. The story of how six north of England

steel-workers,

after being laid off, figure out a way to earn some fast money, has

its heart as well as the other vital parts in the right place.

After watching the town go ga-ga for a professional touring male strip

show, the desperate workers decide to perform a show of their own.

This leads not only to problems with their personal and family lives,

but with the obstacles that rise up (no pun intended) in perfecting

the act. The unexpected fusion and confusion of sexual identities

also adds to the fun. The musical possibilities inherent in the plot

are obvious, as is the potential for physical comedy. Except for

changing

the locale from the U.K. to the U.S.A., Buffalo to be exact,

playwright

Terrence McNally’s musical version is faithful to the plot

contrivances

and sentiments of Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay.

The great news is that the eclectic pop, rock, jazz score and

down-to-earth

lyrics by David Yazbek never sounds out of its element the way Elton

John’s score for "Aida" does. While none of the six principal

men have great singing voices, they do punch out their songs

effectively.

Best of all, by right of their strong personalities, they make us

care about them.

Patrick Wilson is excellent as Jerry, a virile and decent chap who

will do anything to keep from losing his joint custody of his son

(winningly played by Thomas Michael Fiss). Notwithstanding his

up-staging

girth, John Ellison (who has appeared in several supporting roles

at McCarter Theater) gets the most comic points, while the hilarious

misstep and mishap prone Romain Fruge (remember Donald O’Connor’s

wall climbing dance in "Singin’ in the Rain"?) is a close

second.

If senior hoofer Andre De Shields earns his insinuatingly sexy

show-stopper,

the other two recruits — Jason Danieley and Marcus Neville —

also have what it takes to round out this unlikely, but likable,

chorus

line.

The one major addition is the character of Jeanette, a

tough-as-shoe-leather

show biz veteran who is recruited to work with the men as a

no-nonsense

director and accompanist. As played with sass and spice by scene

stealing

81-year-old TV character actress, Kathleen Freeman, the role has

Tony-nomination

written all over it.

While director Jack O’Brien happily emphasizes character development,

including those provided by Annie Golden and Emily Skinner, as the

wives, choreographer Jerry Mitchell is to be commended for creating

the next-to-impossible — sensational but never improbable routines

for this six-pack of hard-working hard hats. As for that full monty,

it’s out there, though your eyes have to move faster than the speed

of light. And don’t worry about taking Aunt Harriet and the kids,

it’s all in good fun, and fun for all. Three stars.

— Simon Saltzman

The Full Monty, Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 West 49

Street,

New York. $31 to $86. Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.


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