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The Fort Wayne Civic Theater presents The Full Monty

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2009-05-18


“What do people really remember about the film version of The Full Monty?” says John O’Connell, director of the Civic Theater’s musical production of the story, which makes its debut May 15. “They remember that it’s about an unlikely group of unemployed guys who decide to do a night of Chippendale’s-style stripping in order to make a bunch of money.”

Well, yes. That’s the basic plot of the 1997 British flick that went on to become a huge hit and rake in a bunch of nominations and awards, including a few Oscars (it was nominated for best picture and won for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score). The musical stage version garnered its own accolades (including a Tony nomination), and though the story has been Americanized — moved from Sheffield, England to Buffalo, New York — the basic plot is still there: unemployed steel worker Jerry Lukowski sees a party of women showering the dancers in an all-male revue with money, and he gets an idea. He ropes five of his friends, all unemployed and in dire straits, into presenting a strip act in order to make some dough.

Sure, maybe Jerry and his friends aren’t the professional dancer-types; as one character points out, one is too fat, one is too thin, another is too old, and they’re all ugly. But Jerry reasons that if they go “all the way” with their stripping routine — if they give the patrons “the full monty,” unlike the professional dancers — that will make up for what they lack in skills and looks.

But underneath the outrageous set-up is actually a story with a lot of heart. “The stripping is not what the play’s about,” says O’Connell. “The play is about how unemployment effects people’s personal lives, their emotional lives… how unemployment is devastating to the psyche of these gentlemen and to their community at large. The stripping is just sort of the catalyst to show who these people really are and how unemployment hurts their male ego.”

The stage version also delves into the relationships between the six group of wanna-be dancers and their wives and families, especially in the case of Jerry’s best friend Dave Bukatinsky (Kerry Yingling) and his wife Georgie (Jessica Butler). “He’s unemployed, she’s out at work,” O’Connell says. “She doesn’t have the kind of relationship with her husband that she used to, because he feels worthless without a job.”

Of course, there’s quite a lot of humor in The Full Monty as well, and striking that balance between comedy and pathos is one of the most challenging things about the production. “It’s a comedy, but it’s not a silly kind of musical theater comedy,” says O’Connell. “It has quite a bit of drama in it as well. So finding that and letting the audience know it’s going to be a little bit of both, and that they can laugh at some of the tougher scenes… that’s a little difficult.”

The story follows the six men as they prepare for the show and deal with the conflicts that arise. It all builds up to show time, where Jerry, Dave and the rest take the stage… And how is O’Connell going to handle that final scene? “That’s a surprise,” he laughs.

O’Connell’s regular gig is as the Chair of the IPFW Theater Department. He is “guest directing” The Full Monty for the Civic Theater, and adds that he’s really enjoyed collaborating with the cast and crew. “The cast is just 22 really talented people. I haven’t worked in the community yet outside IPFW, so it’s nice to be working for the first time with some of the really talented actors in Fort Wayne. Especially the six main guys. They really run the show, and they work beautifully together.”

The Fort Wayne Civic Theater presents The Full Monty
Rated ‘R’ for adult language, content and partial nudity

Fridays May 15, 22 and 29 at 8 pm
Saturday May 16, 23, and 30 at 8 pm
Sundays May 17 and 31 at 2 pm

Arts United Center
303 East Main Street

Tickets: $24/adults; $16/age 23 and under; $20/Sunday Senior Matinee

Box Office: 424-5220
www.fwcivic.org

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