Highly Recommended **** Attending the performance right after the “opening night” can be a let-down. Often the cast has been working so hard for the press night that the air leaks out for the second performance. Tonight, I watched Kokandy Productions present their production of “The Full Monty” and was not aware that this was the night after- in fact, the intensity and energy was as if THIS was THE opener. I am proud to say, that under the skillful eye of director John D. Glover, this movie turned into a stage musical exceeded my expectations. The only reason that this does not get the 5th star is that it is not suitable for all ages and the music itself is not what a good musical should have.
Needles to say, the overall production, in the intimate space at Theater Wit is better than many others I have seen. The book (Terrnace Mcnally) and the music and lyrics (David Yazbek) tell the story of the stress that a mill closing can cause a community. The town is in trouble and so are the people. The mill being closed has affected sex lives, relationships and of course self-confidence. That is what this play is all about. These men opting to perform as strippers to earn money, are not just earning the dollars needed to survive, but their manhood back. I think many people miss that part of what this is all about. The stripping, which turns into “The Full Monty” (which means taking it all off), is just the means to an end, so to speak!
Doing a play such as this, in a theater where the audience is just inches away from the actors is pretty gutsy in itself, but Glover seems to have all the self-confidence in his direction and has found a very solid cast to pull it off. Garret Lutz is a wonderful Jerry Lukowski, who gets the idea for his buddies to do this thing. He is behind in his child support and faces losing shared custody of his son, Nathan (deftly handled by Kyle Klein II and alternately Seth Steinberg). His best friend, a rather large and burly Dave Bukatinsky (Scott Danielson does a terrific job in this role) is having “man” troubles at home with the woman that he adores, his wife, Georgie (ably handled by Marsha Harman).
The other “guys” on the team are Harold Nichols (handled to perfection by Eric Lindahl), their ex-supervisor, Noah “Horse” Simmons (Randolph Johnson will take your breath away with his number), Ethan (Greg Foster) who wants to dance up the walls ala Donald O’Connor in “Singin’ In The Rain” and Malcom (George Toles is hysterical and loveable in this special character). Their piano player, the wise cracking Jeanette is played to perfection by Caron Buinis (who should get a Jeff nomination for this one). The women in this rather large cast and the other men in the ensemble all deserve mention for their ability to not only sing and dance, but change sets and characters along the way in this 2 hours and 30 minutes of story telling:Kasey Alfonso, Dana Anderson, Neala Barron, Matt Frye, Royen Kent, Elizabeth Morgan, Jake Morissy, Charlie Rasmann, Sarah Simmons and Colette Todd (she brings a new light to Vicki Nichols and has a strong and vibrant voice).
A tip of the hat to the clever set design (Ashley Ann Woods), costumes by Angela Enos, lighting by Cat Wilson, sound by Mike Patrick and props by Johnny Buranosky. The choreography by Daniel Spagnulolo is dynamite considering the limited space theater three at Wit offers. The seating is on three sides of the actors and as I said earlier, very close to the action. In fact, tonight, there was a little lady, up in her years, who I will call “Mercy”, who was a bit frisky and could have easily “reached out and touched somebody”. She didn’t! But she was fun to watch.
The musicians, up in a loft above the action, under the direction of Kory Danielson were a pleasure to listen to as they never overpowered the small space and we could hear every word the actors sang. This is highly important to a musical story being told as the songs lyrics help to propel the story to the audience. Forget that this is the first NON-Equity performance of this show in Chicago- this is as good as it gets! Glover knew he could take us on this journey and has done so with all the confidence that he shows in every production he brings to the stage.
“The Full Monty” will continue at Theater Wit thru April 12th with performances as follows:
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m. (an afternoon delight)
Tickets are $38 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 773-975-8150 or online at www.kokandyproductions.com
The theater is located at 1229 West Belmont and parking is available at Cooper’s (directly across the street), on the street and also by valet. To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-UP and click at “The Full Monty”. And “enjoy”