As I embarked from Williamsburg VA to see The Full Monty at Smithfield Little Theatre, I imagined a hundred ways the play could go wrong. I imagined wardrobe malfunctions, campy acting or farcical direction. But all my fears were completely at nought. The Full Monty at Smithfield Theatre is a hit! It is a rousing, energetic, feel-good performance by one the best casts I have seen this year. The musical, by Terrence McNally and David Yazbek is based on the 1997 movie, centers on a group of steel workers who were laid-off from their job and we follow them as they to get back on their feet and overcome their insecurities.
Jerry, portrayed excellently by Joe Philipoom, is fighting to continue to see his son as Jerry hasn’t paid child support in a while. Jerry’s wife Pam superbly portrayed by Lahnie Reilly is exasperated by Jerry’s inability to provide financial support. John Post, who portrays son Nathan, is a natural in the role with a great combination of hopefulness and concern for his father. Dave, portrayed with great aplomb by Michael D Jones, seeks to overcome body-image issues and be a more attentive husband to Georgie strongly portrayed by Carrie Grace Morgan. Harold Nichols, the former supervisor portrayed by Dave Carlson, is worried how his wife, Vicki, portrayed by Amber Price, will react to him being unemployed because she REALLY likes their extravagant lifestyle. Malcolm MacGregor, portrayed endearingly by Marshall Robey deals with an elderly, overbearing mother as well as shyness. Ethan Girard, portrayed hilariously by Chris Hogan, is a seemingly vacuous man, who has a propensity for running into walls. And Noah “Horse” T. Simmons, portrayed with a very strong stage presence by Tyrone Davis, is trying to keep busy in retirement.
The greatest strength of the play is that the audience is drawn into the performance and we increasingly care about each character. There were several moments that highlight this strength. Philipoom’s Jerry and Post’s Nathan had a dynamic that allowed me to believe that they were father and son, who truly loved each other. Jones’ Dave projected an openness to bare the character’s weight issues and which was truly genuine and heart-breaking. We as the audience felt his pain and we all identified ourselves with him. Perhaps the most endearing moment was with Robey’s Malcolm lament over the loss of his overbearing mother and the duet he had with Hogan’s Ethan.
Other great performances include Bonnie Carlson’s Jeanette Burmeister who portrays a sassy piano player, who leaves the audience in stitches. My favorite performance has to be Tyone Davis’ Noah “Horse” T. Simmons with the “Big Black Man”. His dancing and singing reminded me of James Brown.
Choreography by Dolly and James Earnes for the men was perfect in its restraint. Especially considering that the men were supposed to be amateur dancers. The ladies dance ensemble of Valerie Davis, Joyah Hall, Kailin Little, Carrie Grace Morgan, Lahnie Reilly, Kathy Strozak and Amelia VanHorebeck all demonstrated crisp oneness. If I had to quibble, I would have liked more sassiness from the ladies, perhaps more hip projection.
Direction by April Jones and Robyn Ness was exemplary. They both clearly had a commanding knowledge of the script and its characters. They clearly imparted this knowledge in their choice of the cast and crew along with stellar blocking.
The “Monty Band” of Mike McCoy, Michael Uenking, Lynn Roberts, Claire Shaumleffel, Mark Calhoon, Erica Chesson, Tom Davidson, Joy Malmberg, Paul Julius, Kim Wharam, Jason Gillette and Harold Tribble played beautifully with each scene. The music did not overwhelm the play and presented the proper tempo and mood for the play.
Mike Hildreth designed a set that set the tone for each phase of the play. The set design began with a grungy, depressive factory setting to the final scene of light and joy. Lighting by Dan Steiger, Mickade Ackley and Sound by Don Curnutte and Jason Price also set the scenes well. An area of improvement would be a recommendation for quicker scene changes in the second act.
When the play gets to its final climatic act we see the men go for their thongs and we are reminded that this is a metaphor for the discarding of fear, depression and anxiety. They reveal that only through the help of your friends, family and community can you truly achieve human dignity. We are in this thing called life together and we are better off caring for each other.
You may ask, do the men bear it all? Do they stand before the audience in just their birthday suits? Well, I am not going to spoil it. I highly recommend The Full Monty at Smithfield Little Theatre. It is definitely a must see!
Smithfield Little Theatre “The Full Monty” by Terrence McNally through permissions granted by Music Theater International. Performances take place at Smithfield Little Theatre , on April 26 – May 13 . Get more info, prices, and purchase tickets here or by calling 757-357-7338