Take it off!

The Full Monty eventually finds its groove, but wades through a wildly uneven script to do so

By Rev. Adam McKinney on May 16, 2019

The Full Monty seemed like it was destined to be adapted to a Broadway musical: a bunch of blue-collar blokes, despite having no dancing experience or marquee idol looks, decide to stage a one-night-only nude revue. The film -- which rode on a wave of similarly charismatic British crossover comedies of the ‘90s -- was, indeed, very quickly adapted to the stage in 2000, just three years after it had originally made a splash.

For the uninitiated, The Full Monty concerns a depressed town full of out-of-work men, most of whom worked at a recently closed mill. After noticing that their wives and girlfriends are willing to shell out $50 to see a Chippendales-style show passing through, Jerry and his buddies -- through a disbelief-challenging series of logical leaps -- figure that their way to fast cash is to put on their own striptease. Unlike the professionals, though, Jerry and the rest of the cast want to give their show a competitive advantage by pledging to do the "full monty" (that is, they will strip down to the buff).

There are always dangers in adapting a well-liked property to the stage, and The Full Monty, as produced by the Tacoma Musical Playhouse, is far from immune. But the biggest problems, such as transplanting the setting to Buffalo, New York, come straight from the book by Terrence McNally, and the music and lyrics of David Yazbek. Much of act one feels like it could have come from any retrograde Tim Allen sitcom, complete with healthy doses of gay panic and tired men-versus-women gags. There's a crassness that feels more like try-hard edginess, and less like an organic expression of the characters (though I'm far from a prude, I found myself acutely aware of the amount of awkward cursing).

Sometimes, this edge proves to be a virtue, as in a standout number where Jerry (Bruce Haasl) and Dave (Erik Furuheim) sing to their new, suicidal friend Malcolm (Jake Atwood) about all the ways they'd do him a solid by helping him to die. And, after act one finishes, and most of the characters' nervousness about being shirtless next to other men fades away, The Full Monty does relax and get funnier, and actually a little touching. The ensemble cast is game, the direction and choreography of Jon Douglas Rake is unfussy, and sections of the audience had a hell of a time whooping it up at the stripteases.

This is a very confused show, with a tonally wild script, and mostly unmemorable songs. But, through sheer verve, it all adds up to a decent production. Once the cast is assembled and begins rehearsing their show, The Full Monty really finds its groove. Furuheim and Atwood are clear highlights, as is Sharry O'Hare, who plays an old-time showbiz pro helping to get the revue on its feet. If the characters were more fleshed-out, the humor more refined, and the songs a bit punchier, The Full Monty might have a chance of surpassing the original film's charm, but it ultimately comes up a bit short.

THE FULL MONTY, 7:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday; 2 p.m., Saturday May 25 and June 1, through June 2, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $22-$31, 253.565.6867, tmp.org