The Players Club of Swarthmore brings six average Joes to the stage with its season finale musical, The Full Monty. Based on the 1997 movie featuring six British blue-collar out-of-work steelworkers, the musical version – featuring a bouncy, witty score by David Yazbek and a funny and sensitive book by Terrence McNally – transplants the story to Buffalo, N.Y. After seeing their wives’ enthusiasm for a touring Chippendales act, Jerry Lukowski (Brian Seaman) convinces his friend David Bukatinsky (Joe Tabasco) and several other down-on-their-luck fellas to present a one-night only strip act.
With his strong voice and self-deprecating attitude, Tabasco is great as the “Fat Bastard” Bukatinsky. The rest of the strip act is also entertaining, especially Ben Long as the awkward laid-off steelworker Malcolm MacGregor. His excellent voice is showcased during “You Walk With Me.” The most laugh-out-loud moment is Noah “Horse” T. Simmons’ (Robert Harris) solo song “Big Black Man.” This is Harris’ first show at PCS after a 20-year hiatus, and it’s clear that he still has his musical and dancing chops. Strutting across the stage, Harris owns the role he’s played four times, finishing the number with a split. Alfred Lance Jr., as professional stripper Buddy “Keno” Walsh, is hilarious, performing his dance numbers in gold short shorts. (Liz Brennan is the Costume Coordinator, while Becky Wright is credited with Specialty Costumes.)
While the story of The Full Monty revolves around the men, the wives of the laid-off workers are crucial characters too, as the plot traces their reactions to the change in their men’s lives. Connie Pelesh’s voice and dance steps stand out during her performance as Vicki Nichols, the wife of laid-off steelworker Harold Nichols (Tim Whelan).
The cast is uniformly strong, but a few sound issues on opening night made it difficult to understand the actors’ lines at times. This was especially noticeable during “It’s a Woman’s World,” which features Sherri Carr (as David’s wife Georgie Bukatinksy) and the female ensemble at the strip club, when the lines were drowned out by the orchestra. However, this issue will certainly be resolved later in the run.
Directors Emily Aaron Fishman and Anne Marie Scalies focus on how the characters work through their fears and anxieties about performing their strip act, as they find they have more in common than they expected.
The modest set, designed by Derek Jay Ross, features an urban setting of dark brick walls, sheet metal doors and trashcans; Chris Barbier’s severe lighting helps to set the atmostphere. The dark colors contribute to the downtrodden feel of the laid-off Buffalo steelworkers, and the industrial materials indicate a connection the characters have to the materials they are used to working with.
The mood created by the set is quickly lifted with the bright lights and dance music of “Let it Go,” which features the guys in their striptease act dressed in police uniforms, performing Fishman’s choreography. You’ll have to watch the musical in person to see if they really do “let it go.”
Running Time: Two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.