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Real Life Cinderella Story at The Full Monty, Downriver Actors Guild (Review) January 17, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals.
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When the actor normally playing a role ended up in the emergency room hours before the second show of The Full Monty at Downriver Actors Guild, Denny Connors was faced with the ultimate decision many of us directors are faced with: do I cancel? In steps small-character part cast member Thomas J Koch II, who with under an hour of rehearsal went on to fill in the role of Malcolm, and not only did so without book and with all lyrics memorized and dance steps learned, but also turned in one of the finest all-around performances of the evening. The announcement wasn’t made until after the show, and it was a heartwarming moment all around: It is why we do theater. It is what every chorus boy and girl waits for – that moment. And it was splendid.

That being said, there is a very funny production of The Full Monty playing there as well. Long considered the Best Musical favorite in 2000 (and losing when that juggernaut called The Producers opened just under the Tony cut-off wire and went on to will everything that season), there were a lot of sad eyes at the awards. Audience favorite by far, its a hard show to do on an amateur level.

You probably know the tale (transplanted from the movie’s British setting to blue collar Buffalo, NY) which concerns a group of joe schmoe unemployed average guys trying to make some big bucks when they learn how much women are willing to pay to ogle a few dancing men at a local club. An unwise dare lands the guys with a date to go the full monty (i.e. naked). Lets face it, this show has always been about the last three minutes of striptease, and when it gets there DAG’s production number is a doozy to be sure.

But what makes the show really click is the clever script by Terrence McNally and the hilarious music and lyrics of David Yazbek. And when you have 6 guys firing on all cylinders the show skyrockets the audience to a rousing, um, climax. (I’m sorry, I had to go there, its that kind of show).

That also means that the show has a very heavy demand: it needs six guys who are acting singing dancing triple-threats. Well, in this production all of the guys have at least some of those qualities. It works just fine, and dance numbers look better than straight out vocal numbers where folks get pitchy, and keys are generally too high for most. (Aside for DAG: MTI offers Transpositions-on-Demand which might have been a good option in this instance.)

Jack Reilly plays handsome Jerry who masterminds the plan. His overweight buddy Danny is played very well by Kenny Kono. There’s aforementioned suicidal momma’s boy Malcolm beautifully created by Thomas J. Koch II last night, and well-endowed enthusiastic Ethan performed by Nathan Vasquez. Leo Babcock plays solid and established Harold, and the group is rounded out by “old man” Horse, played by young John Criswell.  In a terrific opening strip number, ensemble member Mike Suchyta gets the ladies going right from the start.

The women fare better in the vocals department and are hilarious to boot: especially Lucinda Cross as Danny’s wife Georgia, and Leah Paige Cooley as Harold’s wife Vicki. When the women’s ensemble is together on stage, they look like real-world people, and talk like truckers.

They particularly come to life in the musical number “The Goods.” There’s also a very funny turn by Dee Morrison as piano player Jeanette (“she just showed up along with her piano”).

Choreography by Spencer Genrich is good throughout. Technical aspects are generally solid (though there were some missed mic cues and some slow lighting cues as well as one glaring light-programing problem during a quiet moment on stage).

But quite frankly, this show is about that last three minutes. The audience was cheering and howling its way through the very energetic show and it happily gets to that climax, bumps (and grinds) and all. Highly entertaining — a great night out is guaranteed for all. Go for the stripping, stay for the awesome show along the way. Oh, and leave the kids at home — its definitely adult fare only.

Recommended.

The Full Monty continues at Downriver Actors Guild’s Theater on the Avenue at 2656 Biddle Ave, Wyandoote, MI through January 24th. Tickets at downriveractorsguild.net or 734-407-7020.

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