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By R. Eli Townsend
Special to The PREVIEW
“The Full Monty” is about six men who take off their clothes to regain their self-respect.
At Thingamajig Theatre, though, it’s not only the men who shine and learn lessons along the way.
Thingamajig Theatre’s “Monty” opens Friday, and makes a good case for one of the strongest musicals of the last decade. Librettist Terrence McNally cannily reworked the hit British film’s screenplay, making the leading men laid-off steelworkers in Buffalo, N.Y. With his first theater score, David Yazbek brought a new, propulsive sound based on jazz to Broadway — and his lyrics are amazingly clever and appropriate to the characters.
Musicals don’t usually show us believable blue-collar types, and seldom show us characters of any kind that feel this genuine and this familiar. Director Pat Payne succeeds in helping his actors tread the fine line between realism and showbiz pizzazz, both of which are crucial to the show.
Dustin Hebert plays Jerry, a divorced guy struggling to pay off child support so he can keep visiting rights with his son, Nate (Pitcher Lindner and Keanan Anderson alternating performances). His latest scheme is to assemble a group of regular guys for a one-night strip show to raise the money. When women ask why they should pay these ordinary guys, Jerry promises they will go “the full monty” and take it all off.
You’ll have to see for yourself.
Among the five other guys Jerry enlists, Denver actor Kurt Brighton makes a fine Harold, the supervisor who hasn’t told his big-spending wife he has been laid off.
Another Denver performer, Barret Harper, finds a hilariously manic approach to the role of Ethan, the guy who keeps trying to dance up a wall like Donald O’Connor in “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Native Buffalo resident Steven Sitzman effortlessly keeps the audience entertained as the overweight and lovable Dave. He has a terrific voice and dances surprisingly well for a big man.
Jeremy Williams lights up the stage with his amazing dancing and blows off the roof with his song of “Big Black Man.”
Mark Middlebrooks steals the show, though, with his lovely and emotionally-charged song, “You Walk with Me.”
The show’s women, even in the smallest roles, make big impressions, too. For instance, Dana Colagiovanni as Vicki, Harold’s shopping-addict wife, belts away with a power that brings new life to her songs and Jamie Finkenthal’s Georgie sings a commanding duet with Vicki, rounding out the second act.
At the top of the list, though, is Deborah Curtis as Jeannette, the musician who accompanies the men’s rehearsals. From the minute she comes out from behind the piano, Curtis dominates every scene. It’s a case of one veteran show-biz pro playing another, very funny, example of the breed.
Adults looking for a very fun night out will not want to miss this one.
Thingamajig Theatre Company presents “The Full Monty,” rated R for mature content and language, June 21-Aug. 8.
For tickets and show information visit www.pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW.