Tuesday, July 03, 2007

review of *The Full Monty*

at Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater through July 14

Would you lay yourself (and all your imperfections) bare for neighbors and co-workers to see? Maybe not. But if you thought you were going to make money doing it — and if you were out of a job, your bank account was empty, and you were in danger of losing the people you love most — then would you go the Full Monty?
You would if you knew it would get the kind of reception it's getting at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater (through July 14).
... Right at the outset, we get a taste of what we came for. A party girl does an emcee intro, and suddenly onstage there's a guy in a suit doing eye-popping things with an umbrella. And with his belt. And with the pants he just ripped off and tossed aside. It's Jonathan Rau (nephew of John Travolta and one of the stars of last season’s *Bus Stop* at Interplayers) doing a dance routine that delivers the goods so well, it'll make jaws drop and other parts not drop. By the time Rau was on all fours, crawling toward the audience, wearing nothing but a G-string, a couple of gray-haired ladies near me were shrieking.
... In a dance-heavy show, director and choreographer Roger Welch provides a pattern of accomplished dancers pulling off the difficult trick of making it appear that they don't know how to dance when they really do.

... In the basketball number, Dane Stokinger — lanky, athletic, pulsing with energy — takes center court. Playing Jerry, the out-of-work divorced dad who’s late with the child support — and who first devises the idea of Stripping for Dollars — Stokinger has the frenetic energy of a desperate guy who’ll play every angle. His voice may falter on the high notes, but in encouraging his son and his mates even as he’s trying to buck up himself, his acting’s solid.

... The CdA *Full Monty* is a crowd-pleasing show with some weaknesses: There’s a lame joke about running into walls that instead of being endlessly repeated should have been cut altogether; three sentimental numbers work too hard at arousing sympathy for the characters; the CdA sound system features its usual feedback explosions and can't-hear-what-they're-saying fades; and Welch should have trimmed about 15 minutes out of this two-and-three-quarter-hour-long show.
The momentum slows after intermission, mostly because nearly every one of Yazbek's second-act songs repeats something we already know about these characters: the trooper playing the piano (Ellen Travolta) sure is one tough old broad who's been around the show-business block; Jerry really loves his son; the men are really nervous (and under-rehearsed) before their big pseudo-Chippendales night; and the wives are going to stand by their men, even if their guys insist on showing off their shortcomings. The musical’s book, by Terrence McNally (who wrote *Love! Valour! Compassion!*), predictably adds some male-male attraction in this testosterone-heavy show — those heterosexuals are everywhere these days! — but the added romance seems forced, perfunctory. As a result, too much of Act Two feels like holding pattern deliberately lengthened to increase the will they/won't they suspense of the concluding strip-o-rama.
But then delay is all in the nature of a Big Tease. *The Full Monty* has its fleshly appeals, but McNally squeezes in some of the heavier stuff while we’re waiting for the finale: Are we truly ready to humble ourselves for the sake of the ones we love? Are we willing to go all-out to make our marriages and parenting work? There’s more than one way to “go all the way.”

For the rest of this review — with comments on the show's finale; the dancing of Mark Fitzgerald Weekes and Christian Duhamel; the choreography of Andrew Start; the acting of Danny Stiles and Laura Sable; and the playing of Steven Dahlke's 11-piece band — please pick up a copy of *The Pacific Northwest Inlander* on Thursday.
Like at that coffee shop over there. Right now.
Or else listen to KPBX, the NPR affiliate at 91.1 FM in Spokane, at 8:35 am on Thursday, July 5.

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