The curtain went up 42 minutes late on opening night of "The Full Monty." A problem with synchronized lighting cues was blamed. Above any musical that comes to mind, lights and timing are critical here.

We recall a previous Long Island production at a theater that shall go unnamed (no need to re-embarrass the players). On the last beat of the "Let It Go" finale, six actors flash their full-frontal gender identity. It's intended as a did-I-blink? tease. But instead of backlighting them in male chorus-line silhouette, the house lights went up.


It's not often that a director-choreographer triples as light-board operator. But Kristen Digilio, wearing three hats, avoided wardrobe-less malfunctions in CM Performing Arts' resurrection of this boisterous unemployment-line musical. An adaptation of the 1997 movie set in England during Thatcher-era austerity, "The Full Monty," by Terrence McNally and David Yazbek, is a comedy teeming with social issues -- unemployment, fathers' rights, impotence, depression, suicide, blue-collar inferiority complex and hetero/ homosexuality conflicts.

But that's mere psychobabble compared to guy-next-door men baring all in a bid to regain $50,000 of respect. (Dollars, not pounds: The musical is set in Buffalo, where several of the guys are unemployed steelworkers.)

We meet Jerry and his hefty friend Dave as they're crashing a ladies-night-out ogling of Chippendale hunks. The "real" men have one opportunity to outstrip them: They'll go full monty. (It's never explained how this Brit phrase migrated to western New York.)

Recruiting let-it-all-hang-out strippers proves as soapy as casting an opera. Jerry, played with Everyman resonance by Brodie Centauro, yearns to ditch his deadbeat-dad baggage, loaded with child-support arrears. Heather Van Velsor as his estranged wife and Austin Levine as their son pump our empathy for Jerry. Sean Burbige as Dave excruciatingly measures weight against self-worth. Joe Morris as their boss, laid off with his workers, bridges the social-class chasm. Andrew Smith as a suicidal security guard and Patrick Grossman as a manic wall-climber present an underexplored gay subtext, while Van Whitaker as "Horse" attaches whatever dignity can be mined from the cliched "Big Black Man" number.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

But "Monty," funnier now than in more dire economic straits, would be naked without the relentless undercurrent of Matthew Surico's 12-piece orchestra, accessorized by Ronnie Green's pitch-perfect costumes.

We've seen it before, but this "Full Monty" makes it worth seeing again.