San Francisco Theater Review: THE FULL MONTY (Ray of Light Theatre)

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by Stacy Trevenon on June 4, 2012

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

BARED SOULS AND BARE FLESH

The huge production of Ray of Light Theatre’s The Full Monty may be packed into the tiny Eureka Theater (opening night was squirming-room-only), but it astonished me how satisfying such full measures of delight, laughter, robust song, and crisp dance could be packed into this revival. Add to that the musical’s memorable messages about self-definition, self-esteem, and the fine art of getting back up when life knocks you down, and you have an evening of pure entertainment.

This company, which wears “the community theatre badge proudly,” does indeed have much to be proud of. The tale of six economically- and psychically-strapped working guys who bravely stage their own strip show at the local club, succeeds wonderfully enough that the rough spots are easily forgotten  amidst the laughter and cheers (I say “enough” for the few elements that lacked professionalism, and occasional scenarios which called for a suspension of disbelief, such as a youthful-looking actor and late teen playing father and son while they looked more like peers.)

Stacy Trevenon's San Francisco Review of The Full Monty at ROLTWith tight and straightforward direction, Jason Hoover elucidates the humor of the cash-strapped amateur strippers, but also highlights the dramatic essence of each character, played with distinction by an admirable cast. Thanks to David Yazbeck’s snappy score and Terrence McNally’s fluid script, this play also successfully and gracefully explores pointed questions about the yardsticks we use to define ourselves, gender roles, socio-economic status, love, and family. It’s surprising that a fairly frothy musical comedy can be so inspirational, but characters who are motivated and  unexpectedly succeed against odds (especially with such a fine cast) is truly a rousing experience.

Stacy Trevenon's San Francisco Review of The Full Monty at ROLTSix unemployed Buffalo steelworkers, encouraged by their wives’ fervor for a Chippendales show, have decided to create their own strip act. Joshua Fryvecind plays Jerry, who not only comes up with the idea, but asserts that their show will be more successful than the pros if they go “the full monty” – get buck naked in their act. Fryvecind has a glorious warmth and stage presence that has him immediately connect with the spectator. He has a fine match in C.J. Dion ‘s Dave, Jerry’s best friend who wrestles with body issues and other obstacles.

As their (respectively) ex-wife Pam and wife Georgie, Leslie Waggoner and Helen Laroche shine with emotional and fulfilling portrayals, not to mention some show-stopping vocal belting. Elijah Diamond strikes the right note as Jerry’s teen son Nathan, who loves his dad while  trying to understand why he’s doing this, and to find his own way in the middle of his parents.

Stacy Trevenon's San Francisco Review of The Full Monty at ROLTDavid Mister is appealing and made me want to cheer him on as Malcolm, a lonely security guard at the steel mill. As Ethan, who finds a kindred heart in Malcolm, Ross Neuenfeldt is both hilarious (with standout physical comedy) and emotionally sweet. Wendell H. Wilson packs some surprises as Horse, who limps into the audition using a cane and then snaps off some electrifying footwork. And Derek Travis Collard turns in a masterful performance that plumbs emotional depths as Harold, the boss man stuck with keeping up appearances when the tables are turned.

Cami Thompson is superb and delightful as razor-tongued pianist Jeannette. Brie Martin as Harold’s wife Vicki is riveting and unleashes some soaring singing. In smaller roles, Chris Uzelac is appropriately smarmy as Pam’s squeaky-clean boyfriend. Sara Hauter tugs heartstrings as Malcolm’s frail mother Molly. And special kudos go to Gwynn Villegas as savvy  professional stripper Keno, who is both a pivotal contrast and booster for the boys.

Stacy Trevenon's San Francisco Review of The Full Monty at ROLTScenic designer Maya Linke’s set beautifully captures the gritty working district. Mary Kalita’s crisp and emotive choreography echo the heart of the story, especially when the guys just can’t get into the idea of taking it all off until they find a connection in shooting the ball a la Michael Jordan. Costume designer Scarlett Kellum tops off the essence of the show with realistic, working-class clothing. And I loved how lighting designer Cathie Anderson handles the penultimate moment:  it’s tasteful, appropriate and highly satisfying. At first I feared that the live band visible at the rear of the stage would detract from the onstage action, but under Ben Prince’s musical direction it proved instead to add the right dimension to the story.

The bottom line (pun intended) is that this is a delightful, vital, well-balanced story lovingly told by an astute ensemble.

photos by Claire Rice

The Full Monty
Ray of Light Theatre at The Eureka Theatre in San Francisco
scheduled to end on June 30, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.rayoflighttheatre.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dianne Arazy June 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Shane, Chris and Hayden: I am so very very proud of all of you and your accomplishments! I so love to brag about my nephews!!!!

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