Kokandy’s “The Full Monty” Review – Racing to the Bottom Has Never Been So Much Fun!

 

Any Chicagoan who lived through the delirious highs of the Bulls’ 3-Peat will get a happy jolt by the way that Michael Jordan’s moves become the model for the six would-be male strippers whose story is the center of “The Full Monty”.  Prior to this Bulls moment of inspiration, they were 12 left feet and nearly paralyzed. 

 

 

There were high stakes to getting their bootys to shake right.  It was more than the big money pile reward for their one-night stand as Chippendales.  It was a way to get their self-respect back that had been robbed from them when the steel mill they worked at was closed.

 

Set in Buffalo, the musical adaptation of “The Full Monty” could just as well have taken place in Chicago.  This is such a light hearted and at times raucously fun performance that by evening’s end you’ll have to strain to remember the moving opening musical number where the six men sing about how they had become scrap—cast-offs and waste in the industrial machine. 

 

 

That rust belt story is still being played out today as manufacturing jobs continue to move offshore leaving low-paid service work jobs in their stead.  The brilliance of “The Full Monty”—book by Terrence McNally and Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek – is that we get treated to a rip roaring good time instead of a cry in our beer about this very real race to the bottom.  In Kokandy Productions’ most able hands, you will be able to marvel time and time again at the brilliance of the lyrics.  Many of the tunes are great too, especially when singers like Colette Todd (playing Vicki Nichols) get to wrap their vocal chords around them. 

 

 

Don’t worry if you have had no interest in Chippendale adventures and find even the thought of going to a male strip tease a tad off-putting.  You’ll know long before the play’s end just how it will end but that never spoils the fun.  And you’ll likely join the cast in the final moments as they hoot and holler for the guys to give them “The Full Monty” they came to see.

 

It’s a lovable cast.  The ring leader is skinny Jerry Lukowski (Garret Lutz) who is desperate to come up with child support money.   His oversized buddy Dave Bukatinsky (Scott Danielson) is just the kind of teddy bear you want to hug, and is all the more endearing when he gets to sing about his fear that the women who see him naked will be as critical as a man.  Mama’s boy Malcolm MacGregor (George Toles) is such as convincing nebbish that when the last scene comes and he too is shaking his stuff with skill its especially a great crackup. 

 

 

The seen-everything-been-there-done-that pianist Jeanette A. Burmeister (Caron Buinis) squeezes so much shtick into her short cameo that she just about steals the show.  It’s a larger cast still, and they all are good—Direction by John D. Glover, Musical Direction by Kory Danielson, and Choreography by Daniel Spagnuolo.

 

This production is challenged by a relatively small performance space with seating on three sides.  Before the curtain I was imagining we got the Edsel seats.   I imagine that no matter where you sit you might have the same worry.  It’s not perfect, but the staging does get around this obstacle pretty neatly and no matter where you sit you’ll get your gander at “The Full Monty”.

 

Now through April 12, 2015 at Theater Wit, 1229 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago.

 

Tickets are available at the Kokandy Productions website or by calling 773 975 8150.

 

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Photos:  Joshua Albanese Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

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