Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Monty at Stoneham

The guys try to take it all off at Stoneham.
I've become something of an expert on The Full Monty of late -  I got a chance to catch it again at the Stoneham Theatre, where it's playing through May 6.  Alas, this production isn't in quite the same league as the crackling version at Boston Conservatory a few weeks back - but it's still a big, friendly lug of a show, and if it lacks some of the Conservatory's energy, it compensates with a sense of grittier, lived-in wisdom.  It helps, of course, that everybody in this cast is the age they're supposed to be - which contributes, I think, to the show's deeper exploration of actual male insecurity, and a corresponding rise in audience sympathy for the crew of regular Buffalo guys who, after they're laid off from their jobs at the steel mill, turn to stripping to get by.

Although about that stripping - a note to all you eager voyeurs out there: if you're dreaming of seeing the full monty at Stoneham - well, be warned the light board operator at this nice suburban theatre has an itchy trigger finger, so the flash that's supposed to accompany "the flash," if you will, comes early -  you can't tell if you've gotten the full monty, or no monty at all.  Basically all you see here is some retina burn, which I guess counts as "hot" in its own way.

Margaret Ann Brady in full theft mode.
But this is still a fun show, even if it's kind of a tease.  Director Caitlin Lowans gives everything a loose, friendly vibe, although traffic isn't always managed smoothly on Christopher Ostrom's awkwardly-angled set (which also tends to crimp Ilyse Robbins' choreography).  So no, "flow" isn't what this show is all about, but it's studded with memorable moments from a savvy cast.

Margaret Ann Brady (left) simply walks off with her scenes as Jeanette, the retirement-home/show-biz refugee who becomes the guys' rehearsal pianist, thanks to some of the most skillfully hard-bitten under-playing I've seen in some time; but the boys do manage to wrestle the show back from her now and again.  Newcomer Michael Timothy Howell made a funny, sexy Jerry, the crew's ringleader -- although he never quite made me believe in his connection to his son, the very poised and endearing Colin Breslin. The most emotionally convincing turn in the production actually came from Corey Jackson as Jerry's best bud Dave, a big guy whose sheer size makes him nervous about taking it all off.  The rest of the guys had their moments too - David L. Jiles Jr. made a smart, forceful "Horse," and Steve Gagliastro was his usual winning self as the boss who'd gotten fired, too, while Nick Sulfaro and Andrew Oberstein hit all the right notes in the way-too-brief gay romance that blooms in the second act.

Elsewhere there was a crack turn from Amy Barker as Gagliastro's ballroom-dancing, clueless wife (although this lady usually gets quite a bit more choreography, guys), and the versatile David Costa was able to switch-hit from gay to straight without missing a beat in a few literally cheeky roles.  Of course pondered coldly - in the buff, if you will - The Full Monty still has some issues; it's a little too long, the second act gets repetitive, the score is good but not great - but these talented folks generally manage to cover the show's gaps the same way those fans used to cover Sally Rand - and with the same entertaining results.

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