- Full monty photo courtesy of Friedman Wagner-Dobler
- Jason Swauger (left) and Rob James in The Full Monty, at Stage 62
The production of The Full Monty at Stage 62 is a remarkable example of storytellers mirroring the story they're telling. This Broadway musical from 2000 (adapted from the 1997 British cult film by composer and lyricist David Yazbeck and librettist Terrence McNally) concerns a group of unemployed steelworkers in Buffalo who, for monetary reasons, perform a one-night-only strip show at a local mall.
The "joke" is that the men are the last six guys who should ever be stripping, and not just because of their physical appearance. They're so relentlessly average that the flair and polish needed to pull this off isn't even conceivable, let alone obtainable.
And Stage 62, though one of the area's more adventurous theater companies, doesn't really have the financial and professional wherewithal to pull off such a large, demanding show.
But just as the characters in Full Monty win us over with determination and sincerity, the Stage 62 company have us rooting for them from the beginning. Thanks to incredibly strong, sincere performances and fiercely talented direction, the victory they score becomes the victory inside the show itself.
Director Stephen Santa's greatest accomplishment is knowing the abilities and limitations of the cast and crew, wisely emphasizing the former and finessing the latter. You'd think that would be Directing 101, but -- as I can sadly report -- that's not always the case. Santa has some trouble moving us in and out of the individual scenes, but the collective force of what he's assembled on stage is solid, professional and hugely entertaining.
A big hand goes to the designers, musicians and crew for making what must have been a back-breaking struggle appear so seamless. Jason Swauger leads a truly blissful cast of performers -- Rob James, Chris Martin, Howard Elson, Wali Jamal and Eric Talotta shine brilliantly in their roles as steelworkers. Becki Toth and Maura Underwood get to unfurl their glorious voices as supportive wives, and Arlene Merryman couldn't be funnier as the crusty pianist.
Stage 62 has a big hit on its hands.
THE FULL MONTY continues through Sun., July 31. Andrew Carnegie Free Library Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie. 412-429-6262 or www.stage62.com