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.
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.