Locals take it off for charity in 'The Full Monty'
By Elizabeth Hewitt
Arts Correspondent | February 13,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Rehearsing "The Full Monty (musical)" are, from left, Frank Wright, Jesse Clayton, Scott Santamore and Chuck Battle,as Judi Tompkins cheers on the strip show. Missing from pictire are James Lorentz and Bob Tompkins.
When it comes to performing a striptease act, what do six laid-off steel mill workers in Buffalo have on the Chippendales dancers?
Chippendales dancers never go the full monty.
This Friday and Saturday, the brave men of Buffalo prepare to bare it all on at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland in
'Cause Productions performance of “The Full Monty.”
“It's a great story with a great heart,” said director and producer Saskia Hagen Groom. “I find it an extremely timely story line.”
“The Full Monty” musical is based on the 1997 British film by the same name about unemployed men in a working class English town who try to reverse their fortunes with a bold scheme. The story's vast appeal led to the American musical adaptation, with a book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by David Yazbek. The show received a slew of Tony nominations after debuting on Broadway in 2000.
Here in Rutland, Hagen Groom began a tradition six years ago when she produced the “Vagina Monologues,” with all proceeds going to charity. Every February since then, 'Cause Productions has put on a benefit show, part of
Hagen Groom's mission to connect business with the arts. Proceeds from “The Full Monty” will benefit the Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter.
The blue-collar men of “The Full Monty,” left unemployed by the closing of steel mills in Buffalo, are facing hard times. After seeing how much women were willing to pay to see a Chippendales act, two down-on-their-luck friends crack a plan to earn some fast cash themselves.
They rope in their former colleagues, who question whether they'd be able to attract much of an audience. But, ringleader Jerry declares, they'll take it one step further than the Chippendale dancers and strip all the way.
As they rehearse together for the big show, the characters help each other through their personal struggles with their insecurities and fears.
Hagen Groom selected “The Full Monty” in part for its adult humor and pop-rock score, but also because of how it addresses more serious social and economic themes. Peppered in among the light and witty numbers — like the innuendo-laden “Big Black Man” or the darkly funny “Big Ass Rock” about suicide — are more poignant moments.
One of Hagen Groom's favorite songs, “You Rule My World,” is about love.
“They're realizing that, job or no job, money or no money, looks or no looks, love conquers all,” Hagen Groom said.
“It's a quality musical that has some silly stuff in it, but has a lot of relevant themes,” said James Lorentz, who plays Jerry, the mastermind behind the scheme. Characters grapple with unemployment, homosexuality, father's rights and more.
“It's about Buffalo, but it could be about any Smalltown, U.S.A. with a bad economy and people out of work,” Lorentz said.
Meanwhile, the six guys confront a practical hurdle in preparing for their first every striptease: the ability, or lack thereof, to dance. It was a struggle some of the cast members could identify with.
“I have the coordination of a pencil,” Lorentz laughed.
Leif Erickson, a regular on the Paramount stage, stayed behind the scenes this time as choreographer. He adapted Jerry Mitchell's iconic choreography from the Broadway production to the cast, whose dancing experience ranged from seasoned musical theater veteran to none.
The musical “is realistic for those who may not have that dance background,” Erickson said, noting that through much of the story, the men are learning to dance. In the song “Michael Jordan's Ball,” the six aspiring strippers try to improve their choreography.
The men's moves are put to the test in the finale, “Let It Go,” when the novice dancers are on stage, confronted with whether they will or won't make good on their promise to bare it all.
“You're out of your seat by the time they get there,” Erickson said.
Erickson and Hagen Groom looked to the Broadway production for inspiration in staging the finale, dependant on a critical lighting cue.
“People ask me, 'Are they truly going the full monty?'” Hagen Groom said. “Well it's not called 'the three-quarter monty.'” But, she assures, “it's done in a very tasteful manner.”