The Full Monty

It takes some balls to tackle this familiar story of a group of amateur male strippers and Beeston Musical Theatre Group’s production of the musical version is great fun, if a little wobbly around the edges. Fans of the 1997 Sheffield-set film may be surprised to discover the action takes place across the pond in Buffalo, New York – as the musical adaptation was originally created for American audiences. It’s a shame really (though no fault of the company) when we’re only down the road from Sheffield and some of the cast might have more luck with the South Yorkshire accent than they do with American – but this is a minor issue.

The plot remains pretty unchanged from the film – a group of men recently out of work due to the closure of the local steelworks form an amateur male strip troupe in an effort to make some money and address a range of personal identity crises. Led by divorced dad Jerry, who is desperate to pay child maintenance so his ex-wife doesn’t stop him from seeing his son, the group accidentally promise to do “the full monty” to set themselves apart from other male strip acts. There is a huge ensemble cast, and director Matt Fry’s decision to place the women in the audience during the opening and closing stripping scenes works well. The action starts off a little shaky, with the show taking a while to get going, but the second act builds swiftly towards the final dénouement and the big reveal is done with panache, meeting with an uproarious audience reaction.

Dan Bates demonstrates the two disparate sides of ring-leader Jerry’s character – a cavalier group leader who can be bullying and cruel, while privately agonising over his relationship with his teenage son. Kevin Chatten stands out as Malcolm, the introverted mummy’s boy who is suicidal before becoming part of the group. His musical numbers are excellent and as a comic actor he almost steals many scenes in which he appears only in the background. Never mind stealing scenes – Steph Gray-Blest threatens to steal the whole show with her hilarious portrayal of worldly-wise theatre old-timer Jeanette. Also worthy of mention are Zak Charlesworth, who brings a great dry humour and sarcasm to the teenage Nathan; and Tom Murton who seems to be channelling Joey Essex in his performance as the pretty but dense Ethan. Andrea Nicolaou (Georgie) has a brilliant voice, and Kevin Brown’s dancing and choreography is accomplished. With such a variety of well-written characters and a multi-layered script to explore, it’s a shame that elsewhere there is some reliance on fairly lazy stereotypes of gay men for cheap laughs.

For a show about taking your clothes off, the costumes are brilliant; and a huge amount of work has gone into designing and building several large set pieces. Some of these are impressive – the car filled with smoke in which Malcolm is trying to end it all and the setting for the final “reveal” spring to mind. But the wobbliness of others is distracting, and there are scenes where it feels like the time spent wheeling them on and off is longer than the scenes in which they are used. A talented live band accompany the production, though the audibility of some actors becomes a problem at times when they are in full swing.

Overall – a fun night out from an amateur musical theatre group who are clearly thriving.

Reviewed for Left Lion

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