Saturday, March 9, 2019
THE FULL MONTY
The Full Monty – the musical, book by Terrence McNally, music and lyrics by David Yazbek (2000), based on the Fox Searchlight Motion Picture written by Simon Beaufoy (1997). SUPA Productions at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, March 8 to 23, 2019.
Reviewed by Frank McKone
Director – Chris Baldock; Musical Director – Katrina Tang; Choreographer – Jordan Kelly.
Dave Smith – Jerry; Max Gambale – Dave; Bailey Lutton – Malcolm; Michael Jordan – Harold; Garrett Kelly – Horse; Jake Fraser – Ethan; Lauren Nihill – Jeanette; Callum Doherty – Nathan (alternate: Josh Nicholls); Emma White – Georgie; Kirrily Cornwell – Vicki; Sarah Hull – Pam; Cole Hilder – Keno.
Lottie Bull, Emily Byass, Hayden Crosweller, Chelsea Heaney, Bridgette Kucher, Brad McDowell.
Ironic, perhaps, to see such a professional quality, thoroughly engaging show essentially about male bonding on International Women’s Day – but I’ll leave philosophical issues aside for the moment.
SUPA, the long-standing local Canberra-based musical production company, has maintained its remarkably high standard in stage directing and performance; music directing and performance; and even excelled on this occasion in Jordan Kelly’s choreography.
The nature of this modest national capital city of 400,000 sited mid-way between Sydney and Melbourne, each with 10 times our population and vying internationally as the best-living cities in the world, means that much theatre here is technically amateur or at best semi-professional. While many on stage and backstage have professional experience and training, few can earn a living as full-time theatre practitioners. Over its history of some 20 years,
Supa Productions Inc’s mission is to be a community based theatre company bringing quality amateur theatre productions to the Canberra area. Our vision is to be the leading theatre company of the region. Our core values are:
Quality We deliver theatre productions with pride and to a standard demonstrating professional excellence.
Integrity We act honestly and ethically in all our dealings with our members, sponsors and the general public.
Development We provide our members with the training and support to allow each individual to grow in confidence and artistic ability.
Rewarding Experience We provide an environment where all members can experience a rewarding and enjoyable theatrical association.
The Full Monty, in my view led by a stunning performance by Dave Smith as Jerry (‘Gaz’ in the original movie) who solves his child maintenance payment problem by persuading his co-ex-workers – as Buffalo, USA, industrial centre shuts down – to perform naked on stage, absolutely fulfills SUPA’s mission.
All the performances showed detailed intelligent design and direction, confirming Chris Baldock’s reputation, and to this extent Smith stood out because Jerry is the central driving character. His singing was powerful and effective, but the key to his success was his movement work choreographed by Jordan Kelly, who in his notes gives special thanks to “my main man Jake [Jake Fraser, who played the comic role Ethan]…for all the extra effort you went to with the boys to form the awesome unit….It really was appreciated and meant a lot to me.”
Of course, I was never present in workshop and rehearsal stages of the production, but in Kelly’s words and in practice on stage I saw the product of SUPA’s focus on Quality, Integrity and Development, and the resulting Rewarding Experience.
So now I turn to International Women’s Day.
I saw the show without having previously seen the original movie. You may not believe that, considering its world-wide popularity and awards, but that’s the truth. I had some vague impressions of men dancing naked, but knew nothing of the storyline. I did know it was British and was a bit surprised to discover the musical is an American adaptation. But, I assumed the basic story of men losing their jobs in Buffalo would be a reasonable parallel to the setting of the original. And I could see the sense of a musical format since the men were supposed to dance.
Something about the women in the show made me feel a bit uneasy, though. The wives – Georgie, Vicki and Pam – were played as strong women very effectively by Emma White, Kirrily Cornwell and Sarah Hull: very appropriately for International Women’s Day, I thought. But some of the language and attitudes of the working-class men didn’t quite ring true for American industrial workers; while the girls in the various minor roles seemed very much like silly and sexy American girls.
I seemed to be watching Americans even pre The Pajama Game.
So I explored Youtube and found that the movie of The Full Monty was indeed very definitely Midlands English.
The ending of the American musical, despite the truth in the job-loss story, became basically a very successful fun performance for our enjoyment; while the re-establishment of good relations between Jerry, Dave and Harry with the women, and Jerry’s son Nathan was a touch too sentimental for me.
But the movie was set in Sheffield, with a two hundred year history of fine steel making, as its culture was being destroyed – by Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister in the 1980s. The film was not so much about men bonding and gaining confidence, or even women finding independence and regaining love, but about a community coming together in the face of attack.
The difference could be seen in the final scene Let it Go.
For the musical, the choreography – perfectly made for the music and the American scene – was clever, witty, and sophisticated, showing the men’s development of dance skills.
In the movie, the men are still not anything like good dancers, but are now OK about performing because it is their statement of defiance – with the support of the women and even the police and the priest – against an unforgiving world of drip-down economics. You feel proud of them for doing it, glad that the men and the women of the community now stand together, but sad in the knowledge that the jobs have gone and a one-night stand won’t bring them back.
I would love now to see the play version of The Full Monty, which I discovered was written by Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the original film – but only after the musical version – and which became winner of the UK Theatre Best Touring Production award 2013. Yet The Independent report said in 2014:
“The stage version of smash hit film The Full Monty is to close just over a month after opening in the West End. The news comes shortly after the production was nominated for one of the UK’s top theatre awards.
The play about unemployed steelworkers who turn to stripping opened at the Noel Coward Theatre in London on February 25 and will stage its last performance on March 29. It had been due to run until mid-June.”
I wonder why, but I still certainly say, go and see SUPA’s musical production of The Full Monty because it so well done. You can deal with the philosophical issues later.