Six men dare to bare it all before an audience in this year’s musical, “The Full Monty.” However brave or crazy that may seem, the show is not all about the men dropping their drawers.
As well as baring their bodies, the actors also end up baring their souls.
Directed by theater professor Paul Truckey, “The Full Monty” delivers just what the title promises, as well as an unexpected emotional aspect.
Based on the British film of the same name, the musical version of “Monty” takes place in present day Buffalo, N.Y. A recession has hit, and many men have been laid off from their jobs at the local steel mill. Jerry Lukowski (senior Zachary Ziegler), out of work and down on his luck, must get the money to pay child support or face losing joint custody of his son (12-year-old Marty Grey) to his wife (senior Sherry Bollero) and her new boyfriend (senior Mike Rudden).
“[Jerry] is really just trying to regain his son and his dignity,” Ziegler said. “Not that he ever really lost (his son) in the first place, but it’s more of a respect thing.”
“He’s also trying to finally be on well enough terms with his ex-wife to have a good relationship with her,” he added.
One night, Jerry and his best friend Dave Bukatinsky (junior Travis Moscinski), an ex-steel mill worker with body image issues, are walking home and witness a group of women paying big money to see a male Chippendale stripper at a seedy strip joint. Jerry gets a brilliant idea: Why not do a one night only strip show for some quick cash? That way, he can get the money and show the women what a real man looks like. Thus, the amateur strip act “Hot Metal” is born.
The rest of the show details the antics of their auditions and rehearsals, all leading up to the final strip show. Throughout these processes, Jerry and Dave recruit four others to the act: Malcolm MacGregor (senior John Pann), Ethan Girard (sophomore Brenton Fitzpatrick), Noah “Horse” T. Simmons (Anthony Gibbs) and Harold Nichols (NMU education professor Steve Oates). The men eventually realize their act is so unlikely to succeed that the only way they can attract an audience is to promise to go The Full Monty.
It’s a simple, yet hilarious and heart-warming story, detailing the trials and tribulations of each man involved in “Hot Metal.”
Part of the beauty of the story is watching the six men come together as an act and as friends, something that the actors agreed had to happen in reality as well.
“One of the best parts was bonding with the other five guys and establishing relationships both on and off stage,” Pann said.
Despite the cast growing closer together as rehearsals progressed, there were still some uncomfortable moments because of the nature of the show.
“The most awkward part is the concept of baring it all before the faculty, administrators and students,” Oates said. “Paul calls me the bravest professor on campus.”
For Pann, just accepting the part of Malcolm MacGregor was a huge challenge.
“I’ve never really been comfortable,” he said. “But once you’re up there and naked, it’s the most liberating and exhilarating feeling.”
Not only are the emotional aspects of the show appealing but, the visual and technical aspects of the show are stunning as well. The set is elaborate and well-painted, and the lights – from the sleazy-looking neon sign above the strip joint to the larger than life “Full Monty” light box at the end of the show – clearly took a considerable amount of time to construct.
The sets move on and off the stage smoothly either by being flown or wheeled in and out. Because of this, the show runs without blackouts to keep you in the moment.
“I wanted the show to move seamlessly from one moment to the next,” Truckey said. “In New York, everything moves very seamlessly, which is something that doesn’t happen very often in college shows. It really helps keep you in the story, which is important.”
In the end, the show ends up not being just about stripping, but about humanity.
“Overall, the question really isn’t ‘Will they strip?'” Truckey said. “I think the question is ‘Will these six men regain their dignity and respect?’ It’s about overcoming obstacles, it’s about these guys trying to find themselves in the world.”
“It’s really a declaration. They’re saying ‘We’re going to be OK’ . something seen as awful turns into something really important,” he added.
“The Full Monty” runs Feb. 19-23. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. with a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $9 for NMU students and $13 for non-students.
“Everyone should come and see the show,” Truckey said. “Make it a friends night out and then go out afterward. I want this to be like a party in the theater.”