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Fun and highly entertaining The Full Monty at Encore (Review) October 8, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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If you want to have a fantastic evening of laughs and great musical theater, grab your tickets now for the hilarious The Full Monty at Encore Musical Theatre Company and have a great time cheering on the guys as they work toward “the full monty” at an amateur men’s strip production. You probably already know the story (either from the movie or the musical – this is the third production I have seen in the past year) — down on his luck unemployed Jerry and his chubby buddy Dave see how much money there is to be made off of the sex-starved women of blue-collar Buffalo and plan their own strip show – along come depressed mama’s boy Malcom, middle-aged Harold, big black man Horse, and energetic Ethan. Will they or won’t they. That is the question that drives the entire musical, and you already know that it is really about the show’s last 5 minutes.

Getting there, though, is great fun in this production. Credit Matthew Brennan (choreographing and co-directing with Thalia Schramm) for bringing this show to lively life in its many dance and movement sequences and his wonderful from top down cast.

Eric Parker is outstanding as Jerry — his singing and dancing is top notch, and what a pleasure to see him on the Encore stage — he takes command each time he appears, and his scenes with his son are particularly affecting. Greg Bailey shows terrific range as his buddy Dave – and has some great stage moments. Thalia Schramm plays his wife Georgie with compassion. Luciana Piazza nicely plays Jerry’s ex- wife Pam, and Alejandro Cantu is terrific as their 12-year old son Nathan, wise beyond his years yet wanting all the things a normal kid wants. Brendan Bachman is hilarious as Teddy, Pam’s new nerdy boy friend.

Dan Morrison turns in a great performance as Harold, and his wife Nicki is played to the edge of hilarity by Sarah Briggs in a role that you will not be able to stop laughing at, even after the show.

Matthew Pecek, quickly becoming an Ann Arbor area favorite, is terrific as Ethan, and his moments with hugely entertaining Brendan Kelly are among the nicest in this production. Jordan Harris is wonderful as Horse. Gayle E Martin plays a show-stealing Jeanette (the piano player with the mouth of a sailor) and her deadpan delivery had me literally holding my stomach with laughter pains (“I can’t play any slower!”)

The rest of the ensemble is awesome in their roles – from Colby Orton as Keno, to the entire rest of the team: Tim Brayman, Kasey Donnelly, Bryanna Hall, Kristin McSweeney, and Bennett Waymann.

If you have never seen The Full Monty the musical onstage before get yourself to their website to buy tickets now. This is a fantastic production. Even those who have will be surprised by how much dancing and movement there is in this production, and how well it is executed throughout — from tangos in a ballroom dance class, to the final striptease number (lets face it, you come for those last five minutes and when it arrives, it is fabulous).

Very highly recommended. Not for younger audiences.

The Full Monty continues at Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter MI through October 22nd. Tickets at theEncoreTheatre.org or 734-268-6200


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.


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.