“The Full Monty,” said Forum Theatre director Rick Bumgardner, is more about the tease than actual nudity on stage — although his six actors, playing fledgling male strippers, ultimately will deliver the goods in a clever bit of split-second stagecraft.
“It’s about the promise and the possibilities as the guys work through the demons that have shaken their confidence as breadwinners. It’s great to watch them come to a know-yourself moment,” Bumgardner said. “It’s sort of ‘Menopaus-A-Palooza’ for men. It’s a coming-of-middle-age story about how far they’ll go to save their families.”
It’s also a lot of charming, klutzy, awkwardly titillating fun as the guys — longtime laid-off steel workers from upstate New York — try to make a quick buck by turning to stripping a la Chippendales. Because they are just ordinary blokes rather than ripped hunks or smooth dancers, their only draw is that they’re willing to do “the full monty’’ — British slang for going all the way or going for broke. In this case, taking it all off.
The 2000 musical, based on the Oscar-winning 1997 British movie, opens Thursday at The Forum Theatre and runs Thursdays through Sundays through May 19. Written and Americanized by Terrence McNally with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, the musical was nominated for 10 Tony Awards on Broadway.
The promise – or threat – of nudity created a bit of a kerfuffle when Music Theatre of Wichita first brought “Monty” to town in 2006, prompting some season ticket holders to turn in their tickets in protest. But those tickets were eagerly snapped up by others, and the show went on without further incident.
“Here we are seven years later, and our early sales have been brisk even without much publicity,” The Forum’s Bumgardner said. “We’re not afraid to do the show.”
Neither are local actors Ted Woodward and Stephen Hitchcock, who will be putting their, ahem, talents on display. They play Dave and Jerry, two blue-collar, beer-loving guys who come up with the idea for them and fellow laid-off steel-plant buddies to strip to pay their mounting bills.
“Dave is a guy who is little embarrassed by his life’s struggles,” said Woodward, best known for his 18 years as a radio personality at KNSS, 1330-AM. “He wants to be The Man, but since he can’t find a job, he’s been stuck as Mr. Mom doing housework for a year-and-a-half while his wife works.”
“Part of the thrill of playing Dave is that it’s a little out of my comfort zone, and that fires me up as an actor. After 17 years in (local satirical show) Gridiron, I think I’ve done everything in public but the ‘full monty,’” Woodward said with a laugh.
“Dave is a relatable guy,” Woodward said. “He has weaknesses, but he’s likable. I can identify with him because he’s a little self-conscious about his weight. We could all lose a few pounds. I like Dave. I would be friends with him in real life – but I probably wouldn’t go see him at his (strip) show.”
For Hitchcock, Jerry is the sort of guy who, when handed lemons, always seems to end up with vinegar instead of lemonade.
“Jerry is an average guy who has been kicked down by life a few too many times,” said Hitchcock, fresh off diverse back-to-back performances in Forum’s “Cabaret” and “Hello, Dolly!” “But he is an optimist. He keeps coming up with harebrained ideas to get ahead, although he never quite has the ability to carry them out.”
“Jerry is fun-loving and a little goofy, but the most important thing in his life is his 12-year-old, who he risks losing because he can’t keep up with child support to his ex-wife,” said Hitchcock, general manager of Mosley Street Melodrama when not performing. “He’s the one who comes up with the brilliant idea about stripping. He doesn’t think too far ahead, but he always believes everything will work out for the best.”
Playing Dave’s bemused and sympathetic wife, Georgie, is Cary Hesse. Playing Jerry’s exasperated ex-wife, Pam, is Molly Tully. Jerry’s young son, Nathan, will be played alternately by 10-year-old Thomas Higgins and 14-year-old Nate McManis.
Also talked into joining the strip troupe Hot Metal is Harold (played by Craig Richardson), Dave and Jerry’s old plant foreman, who has been faking going to work while depleting his savings to keep his materialistic wife satisfied and in the dark. Then there are meek, introverted, possibly suicidal mama’s boy Malcolm (Ted Dvorak); blissfully over-endowed dreamer Ethan (Jordon Snow); and Noah (Huron Breaux), nicknamed “Horse,” who becomes the group’s choreographer.
Karla Burns is Jeanette, the group’s tough-talking rehearsal pianist and mother-confessor. Sarah Gale McQuery is Vicki, Harold’s shallow and materialistic wife. And Aaron Profit is Keno, the chiseled Chippendale who sparks Jerry’s get-rich-quick scheme in the first place.
Burns also is music director, with Tim Raymond as arranger and pianist, and McQuery also is choreographer. Set is by Jack Walker and Kathy Page-Hauptman, with costumes by Page-Hauptman. Props are by Casey Eubank, and lighting, a crucial aspect of this particular show, is by Tyler Lessin.