Buffalo men go all the way! First they gave us the Buffalo wing and now they’re giving us the whole thing over at Silhouette Stages with their spring production of The Full Monty, written by Terrence McNally with music and lyrics by David Yazbek. Directed by Conni Ross and Debbie Mobley, with Musical Direction by Michael Tan, this saucy fun musical has enough laughs to keep you rolling in the aisles. Out of work men who are feeling just a little less than masculine as of late to take it upon themselves and rake in the big bucks with a one-night only chip-n-dale stripper style performance. But to really put the butts in seats they offer something that no other chip-n-dale dancers do: they offer to give the audience ‘The Full Monty.’ Hilarity and comic insanity ensues as this production works its way to an eye-popping conclusion.
The production is not without fault, but there are enough hilarious antics that occurs with the characters and enough solid energy coming from the cast to make up for the poor pacing, lack of intonation and other musical issues. Directors Debbie Mobley and Conni Ross don’t have a handle on the pacing of the production as a whole. There are numerous ‘dialogue only’ scenes and this is where things slow down and drag, making the production more like a play punctuated with song and dance numbers rather than a musical production that has a few non-musical scenes.
Musical Director Michael Tan conducts a superb orchestra, consistently keeping pace with the performers on stage through some of the more complex musical numbers. Doubling up as pit keyboardist, Tan adds his talents to the sounds that keep the show going round. There are, however, a number of intonation issues that occur for various characters throughout the production; Beth Cohen (Vickie) and Dean Allen Davis (Jerry) especially, which leaves the music feeling less than stellar. But what Tan’s singers lack in pitch they make up for with enthusiasm and emotional exuberance.
Set Designer Alex Porter deserves a nod for his intricate attention to detail in the filthy men’s room at the strip club. From the grody walls that just radiate disgust right down to the condom dispenser mounted haphazardly on the wall, Porter captures the essence of this unsavory scene. Another nod goes in the direction of Costume Designers Debbie Mobley and Lisa Ellis. The show may be all about the men but Mobley and Ellis manage to keep the ladies looking fabulous in all their sparkles and reflective clothing.
It’s the minor characters that really give this production an added punch of pizzazz, augmenting the comedy to hilarious heights and really giving the audience the giggles. Snappy sassy strumpet Estelle (Linda Ha) plays the saucy tart that is constantly stirring up trouble between Jerry and Pam. Then there’s Jeanette, played by Kathy Marshall. With her own breed of sassy, in much milder and more fun-loving manner, Marshall guides the gentlemen through rehearsals with her quirky sense of ‘telling it like it is.’ Her solo, “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number,” while difficult to hear because she’s so soft sung, is a number of epic comic proportions.
Driving the conflict is the young Nathan (Jesse Kinstler) as he’s the reason his father needs to raise all that money in the first place. A precocious little scampe, Kinstler makes the perfect adolescent character in this production, charming with all the right timing during his comic delivery. He plays well against Jerry having a tight friendship-style bond with the father character and keeps things entertaining.
While this show does revolve around the men, there are two major women of note that come to mind. Georgie (Reenie Campbell) and Vickie (Beth Cohen) are the two wives who find themselves mixed up in the mess of things. Campbell has a stellar voice, one of the only ones in the whole production who never wavers in her pitch. With a boisterous belting sound she leads the ladies to a rousing number during “It’s A Woman’s World.” Her heartfelt solo “You Rule My World (Reprise)” shows her vocal versatility and lets us see the softer side of her character. Cohen may not be much for singing, but her overly dramatic characterization of the posh housewife is hilarious. With great comic delivery and a very in-your-face stage presence she gives all the encouragement needed for her husband to succeed, once she discovers the truth.
With comic antics and very little singing Ethan (John Aquila) is a fella to keep your eye on. Constantly trying to mimic walking up the wall like they do in the musical film, Singing in the Rain, Aquila brings the physical shtick into this production with a polished zest. Opposing this physical energy is the rigidly awkward Harold (Matt Melenas). Another soft spoken singer, Melenas has simple expressions in his voice for “You Rule My World,” but is pleasant to listen to just the same.
The lead males in this production are a great comic duo. Jerry (Dean Allen Davis) and Dave (Micah Chalmers) make for quite the uproarious evening of entertainment when paired together. Davis has a powerful voice, belting several of his numbers quite clearly, albeit off-key, and his ability to express a plethora of emotions often in one song is impressive. With a chip on his shoulder and frustration wounding his soul he belts it out for numbers like “Scrap” and “Man.” The more subdued side of Davis’ character comes into play during his heartfelt rendition of “Breeze Off The River.” Chalmers drives the comedy in the duo, really coming into his own for “You Rule My World,” a song specifically about his hungry stomach.
But the real show stoppers are Malcolm (Matthew Acquard) and Horse (Bobby English). Acquard plays the stereotypical nerdy geek who can’t get his life together. With a pinched nasally sound and a stage presence so awkward you can’t help but laugh he steals the thunder every time you encounter him. Watching him spazz his way through “Big Ass Rock” is an uproarious moment that had me laughing so hard I found myself in tears. But Acquard is a double threat because not only does he bring comic genius to the production but his deeply mournful solo during “You Walk With Me” touched my heart and also made me wipe away tears. He is truly a gifted gem of a performer.
As for English, the show is sort of humming along until his big number “Big Black Man” erupts onto the scene and really wakes everyone up. English gives us jazz and soul and funk all wrapped up into one killer performance of this number, his body set to stun as it bops into action. His dynamite voice enhances his popping pelvis and it gets everyone’s blood pumping. The most lively performer in the show, English’s performance is a sensation not to be missed!
Running Time: Approximately Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
The Full Monty plays through May 26, 2013 at Silhouette Stages at Slayton House Theatre — 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call (410) 637-5289, or purchase them online.