Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Naughty and nice: 'The Full Monty' strips down to raunchy great fun

By Peter Filichia, Star-Ledger
August 18, 2009 11:19AM

The show at the Carousel in Asbury Park sure isn't "Carousel."

"The Full Monty," the musical that played the Paper Mill Playhouse in June, is getting yet another production, courtesy of the ReVision Theatre Company. While the set here is not just ugly as sin -- rather, it's as hideous as all 12 mortal sins plus 100,000 venial ones -- the cast is great fun in this raunchy show.

How raunchy? There's more than a dollop of profanity in Terrence McNally's (otherwise solid, amusing and tender) book and David Yazbek's lyrics. With a plot involving six out-of-work men stripping in order to raise much-needed cash, there's also more skin on display than in the average musical.

Yazbek provided the quirky music, too, which is an excellent amalgam of pop rock and genuine show music. Though this is mostly an up-tempo, brassy score (nicely played by a 13-piece band), Yazbek makes room for three beautiful ballads, too.

Scott Guthrie excels as Jerry, the flat-broke father who's as far behind on his child support payment as the Mets are in the standings. His young son Nathan is played by Andrew Newsome, an endearing but not sticky-sweet child actor. Such kids neither grow on trees nor on many stages, so Newsome is to be cherished. So is director David E. Leidholdt for not letting the lad overdo it.

All the would-be strippers score, but Andy R. Jobe is the most impressive. He's Malcolm, who must make a journey from namby-pamby mama's boy to a self-actualized man in love. Jobe does just that. Among the wives, Katherine Pecevich's Vicki has plenty of sizzle as a coddled spouse who turns out to have more character than her husband Harold (the impressive Mark Gerrard) would have expected. So does Erin Evers as Pam, Jerry's ex. McNally was careful not to make her any kind of a shrew, and Evers expertly shows the character still has a great deal of love left in her.
And then there's Jeanette, the veteran of eight marriages whom the men have hired as their pianist. Jane Strauss looks like the Wrath of God with her colorful but eye-offending outfit, and her hair piled atop her head so that it resembles an out-of-control tumor. McNally gave her some sharp lines, but on opening night, Strauss not only got a laugh with all of them, but also acquired applause from most of them.
Too bad, though, that Leidholdt occasionally positions an actor so that the audience can't hear an important piece of information, either because someone's blocking him, or because he's in a too-far-removed place on stage.
Granted, the set used on Broadway and Paper Mill was never attractive enough to pass for the Embassy Ballroom in "My Fair Lady." But at least it was specific enough to let an audience know that it was in such places as a men's room and two posh suburban homes. One can't get the point of the scene of the jokes without knowing the location. What's more, the moment when Malcolm attempts suicidal asphyxiation by carbon monoxide in a car isn't clear because there's only a suggestion of a car.

When one considers those liabilities, "The Full Monty" doesn't seem to be the right show for ReVision. However, with all the talent that the company has on hand -- and how right each actor is for his role -- one can understand why the plucky company just had to do this musical.

The Full Monty
Where: ReVision Theatre, Carousel House, 700 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park
When: Through Sept. 6. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m.
How much: $25-$50. Call (732) 455-3059 or visit revisiontheatre.org.

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