Ray of Light Theatre gives us a night of fun with ‘The Full Monty’

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: 3/5 Stars » Recommended)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

The Full Monty as produced by Ray of Light is a happy marriage of company and play, full of good fun and adding up to a fine night out. The Full Monty, you probably remember, was a “sleeper” hit of a movie from across the pond a few years ago, telling the story of a group of jobless working class guys in a small town who realize that a traveling troupe of male strippers has made a killing in ticket sales. Why shouldn’t they do the same? If the ladies would pay to see strangers, why wouldn’t they pay to see their own friends, neighbors and husbands? Especially if they agree to deliver full nudity, that is, The Full Monty.

It’s a silly premise, but the film made it work by focusing on the characters, their self doubts and, ultimately, a celebration of community and good ol’ “Let’s put on a show” hokum. That last bit makes it a natural for musical comedy, and this adaption opened on Broadway in 2000, played for two years, and received nearly a dozen Tony nominations.

Ray of Light Theatre proudly waves the banner of “community theatre”, celebrating the combined contributions of gifted amateurs, beginners and seasoned professionals. It is a style perfectly suited to The Full Monty.

Lead players Joshua Fryvecind and C. J. Dion (Jerry Lukowski and Dave Bukatinsky) are cute and believable as the two best buddies who come up with the stripper scheme, as are Helen Laroche as Dave’s supportive wife and Leslie Waggoner as Jerry’s angry and disappointed ex.

(from l to r) Wendell H. Wilson, Derek Travis Collard, Joshua Fryvecind, Ross Neuenfeldt, David Mister and C. J. Dion in Ray of Light Theatre’s production of “The Full Monty”. Photo credit: Ray of Light Theatre

The highlight of this production consists of the novelty numbers sung by various members of the troupe. (Okay, I suppose the brief delivery of the promised Full Monty in the show’s final moments also qualifies as a highlight.)

Wendell H. Wilson‘s showstopping rendition of Big Black Man is especially delightful. Also memorable is Cami Thompson‘s high voltage turn with Jeanette’s Showbiz Number.

And special mention goes to Ross Neuenfeldt (as Ethan Girard), a recently minted MFA from Boston University, who is making his San Francisco debut. This charming and skilled performer will be working a lot in this town. Welcome, Ross!

The Full Monty continues at the Eureka Theatre through June 30th. For further information, click here.

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The Full Monty, music & lyrics by David Yazbek, book by Terrence McNally, produced by Ray of Light Theatre. Director: Jason Hoover. Musical Director: Ben Prince. Choreographer: Mary Kalita. Scenic Design: Maya Linke. Costume Design: Scarlett Kellum. Lighting Design: Cathie Anderson. Sound Design: Sound Productions. Technical Director: Daniel Cadigan.

Cast

Jerry Lukowski: Joshua Fryvecind. Dave Buatinsky: C. J. Dion. Malcolm MacGregor: David Mister. Ethan Girard: Ross Neuenfeldt. Noah “Horse” T. Simmons: Wendell H. Wilson. Harold Nicholes: Derek Travis Collard. Pam Lukowski: Leslie Waggoner. Georgie Bukatinsky: Helen Laroche. Nathan Lukowski: Elijah Diamond. Vicki Nichols: Brie Martin. Jeanette Burmeister: Cami Thompson. Teddy Salughter: Chris Uzelac. Buddy “Keno” Walsh: Gwynn Villegas. Estelle Genovese: Sophia Campobasso. Susan Hershey: Melinda Campero. Joanie Lish: Kate Cooper. Molly MacGregor: Sara Hauter. Ensemble: Danielle Diapaola, Maria Duzon, Philippe Gosselin, Daniel Hurst.

Musicians

Conductor/Keyboard: Ben Prince. Keyboard: Dave Dobrusky. Guitar: Mathias Minquet. Bass: Evan Veenstra. Drums: Cody Rhodes. Trumpet: Jason Park, Aaron Priskorn. Winds: Jonathan Illari.

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