Friday, March 18, 2011

Midland's "Full Monty" delivers "the goods" -- and shamrocks too

review by Janet I. Martineau
Who says they don’t have a sense of humor in Midland?
On St. Patrick’s Day?
During a performance of “The Full Monty” at the Midland Center for the Arts?
Yep, there they were in plain view, even from the seventh row.... single green shamrocks painted on the rear ends of the cast members.
The BARE rear ends!
Of the male cast members!
What a great giggle. Has us wondering, is something else painted there every night during the run of the show, and who gets to do the painting?
But I digress.
We were there to review the musical about six laid off Buffalo, N.Y., men who put together a Chippendale-style striptease show to bring home some bacon. It was, on Thursday night, our fifth time to see the show in variations ranging from movie to professional tour to community theater. 
Each time we realize how magically wonderful this show is -- artfully scripted and composed, full deep belly laughs and tugging moments of sentiment, relevant still through the years since layoffs continue.
And what makes it even more fun at the community theater level is that most of us in the audience know at least one or more of the actors who land the parts and have to get  comfortable enough to bump and grind, walk around in their undershorts, and in the end  nearly bare it all.
So it was Thursday night as it was a year or so ago at Pit and Balcony Community Theatre in Saginaw.
Director Susan Hearn and her cast deliver “the goods” from start to finish, with a high level of energy throughout. Yes, a couple of the singing voices are not quite up to the demands of the tricky score. The set is not one of Midland’s best and most effective, and the rolling set pieces become annoying. There are some questionable directing decisions here and there. And putting the orchestra in another room at the center and piping the music in left us cold.
But the acting performances are rock solid across the board with more than a few standouts above and beyond.
Adam Gardner is wonderfully geeky with a rubber-like body movement, and when he sings the sad “You Walk With Me” his voice wavers with emotion as it should and  then builds with confidence when life turns around for him.
Denyse Clayton chews up the script and spits it out as the sarcastic and garish woman the men hire as a piano accompanist. Granted her lines are funny as they are written, but she lathers them with all kinds of relishes.
Paul Viele has a small part as a stripper wanna-be who fails horribly during the audition. It is a performance that is touching, funny, sadsack and done with just the right everything.
Kevin Kendrick moves with the grace of a panther in the dance scenes of “Big Black Man” and “Michael Jordan’s Ball.”
And Kyle Bagnall and David Clayton click as unlikely best friends who are macho one moment and tender the next; cocky and confident one moment and then quavering and insecure the next.
Clayton’s “You Rule My World” number and his battle with Saran wrap in the bathroom are two of the most wonderful moments in the show. And Bagnall’s face is a constant ever-changing map of emotions.
Go, runs this weekend and next. Really good roles for men are few and far between in musical theater, and this one is full of ‘em. With or without the shamrocks.

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