Review: ‘The Full Monty’ at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre

Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s production of The Fully Monty is a fun musical with a lot of heart. With book by Terrence McNally, music and lyrics by David Yazbek, and directed by Mason Catharini, it is based on the 1997 British movie, now set in Buffalo. Talented acting and singing combines with catchy songs and music, as well as wonderful directing, staging, and creative lighting, to present an enchanting night of theater where the cast truly bares it all.

Justin Thomas Ritchie, Brandon Deitrick, Eric Hufford, Dean Allen Davis, and Christian Gonzalez in The Full Monty. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre.

Eric Hufford plays Jerry, the leader of this troupe, with pluck and charisma, hiding much fear. In the opening number, “Scrap” he sings with anger and bitterness at losing his job, and having to provide for his ex-wife and son. He encourages the other men to join him in his vision, continually working to make it happen. In “Man” he pitches the idea of working men like him stripping, optimism and determination rising in his voice. In “Michael Jordan’s Ball”, a high energy song, he teaches the men to dance, using basketball moves to get them gracefully dribbling, making free throws, and shuffling. His tenderness also comes out with his son Nathan (Matthew Beagan), especially in “Breeze Off the River” a quiet, heartfelt song that ends sweetly with “All I know is, I love you kid.”

Hufford and Beagan have great chemistry together, with the son both challenging and supporting his father, full of equal parts love and humor. In one touching moment, Nathan gives encouragement to Jerry just when his father needs it most. In some ways, Nathan is the adult to Jerry’s childish dreams.

Kaitlin Fish plays Jerry’s ex-wife Pam with a quiet strength. She stands up to Jerry throughout the musical, urging him to “grow up” and take responsibility for their son. Kevin Cleaver plays her boyfriend Teddy with a smug sense of superiority, looking down on Jerry.

Dean Allen Davis gives humor and bravado to Jerry’s friend Dave, masking insecurities. Normally loud and joking, as in “Big Ass Rock” where he and Jerry consider ways of committing suicide, he has a tender moment in “You Rule My World” where he quietly sings of his love for his wife in spite of everything. He also carries anger, at one point grabbing Jerry by the shirt when his friend hits a soft spot. Cara Marie Pellegrino plays his wife Georgie with tenderness and desire. In “It’s a Woman’s World” she joyfully extolls the power of working women, and their sexuality. Later, in a sweet reprise of “You Rule My World”, she shows just how much she loves her husband.

Brandon Deitrick plays Harold with a strange mixture of stuffiness and sympathy. Although a decent ballroom dancer, his attempts to teach the gang how to dance goes comically wrong. “You Rule My World” also has him quietly singing his love. Caitlyn Ruth McClellan plays his wife Vicki with bubbly enthusiasm. Her song “Life with Harold” has her spinning around the stage singing her husband’s praises. In the reprise of “You Rule My World”, she demonstrates her true, enduring love.

Willie Baker plays Horse with a shyness that hides great talent. Complaining of back problems, he launches into “Big Black Man” that has him dancing across the stage with incredible rhythm. He moves beautifully and infectiously, getting the other men dancing along with him. His voice is full of soul and joy.

Christian Gonzalez plays Malcolm with a quiet meekness. Rescued by Jerry and Dave, he joyfully sings of finally finding friends in “Big Ass Rock”; the two other men pick him up and spin him around. Caring for his mother (Stephanie Bernholz) who cruelly tells him “You have no friends”, he eargley joins the gang, practicing taking off his belt to comic results. He has a moment with Ethan (Justin Thomas Ritchie), where they touch each other. Later, the two sing a mournful duet “You Walk with Me”, the sorrow clear in their voices. Ritchie is great at physical comedy, continually trying to do a trick with the walls that fails spectacularly. With Gonzalez, he shows his tender, supportive side, reaching out to comfort and hold him.

Paul Pesnell opens the show as Keno, the professional stripper, with an incredibly physical and revealing performance, mixed with humor. Exuding confidence, he is Jerry and the gang’s total opposite, but certainly fun to watch.

Adam Timko is pure comedy as Jeanette, the piano player. With a deep, masculine voice, and five o’clock shadow, she spouts off one-liners that get great laughs. In “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number”, she sings of her showbiz past and the lack of talent in this gang, explaining “things could be better.” It is an absolute hoot.

Madeline Hogue does great work as Costumer. The men wear blue jeans and t-shirts, except for Harold, who wears a full suit. Jeanette has a black sparkly top, gold pants, and a black feather boa. Their final number has them in police uniforms, with jackets and top hats.

Set Designer Ryan Ronan’s set is simple but well-done, with layers of green walls for various props to slide out of, including a tiny car. A multi-level platform is in the center of the stage.

Matt Tillett has done a wonderful job as Lighting Designer, using several lighting effects for the “reveal”.

Music Director Emily L. Sergo has the music sounding terrific, with the orchestra playing behind the stage. Choreographer Andrew Gordon and Director Mason Catharini have done great work getting the actors to move naturally around the stage and each other. They play the big scene perfectly, building up to it, and getting the audience excited. They hit all the right comic and emotional moments. Be sure to catch this funny, heartwarming show!

Running Time: Approximately 3 hours, with a 20-minute intermission.

The Full Monty plays through July 22, 2017, at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre – 143 Compromise Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 268-9212, or purchase them online.

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