By Tara DeLorenzo
It’s a play about strippers — at least that was the expectation when students walked into the BLC Theater for Westminster College of the Arts’ rendition of the award-winning Broadway musical and British film The Full Monty. But this production proved to be much more than what meets the eye.
Directed and choreographed by Robin Lewis, assistant professor of performing arts, with musical director Louis F. Goldberg, adjunct professor of theater and dance, this quirky musical took over the BLC Theater from Oct. 9-13. The show tells the tale of six men, all down on their luck, looking for a way to turn things around for themselves. Rather than take the conventional path after losing their jobs at a steel mill, they decide to try their luck stripping for a one-night performance.
Peter Petrino, a junior musical theater major, played Jerry Lulowski, a father doing everything he can to keep his child after his ex-wife threatens to take away his partial custody because of his late child support payments. Jerry is the mastermind behind the strip act idea. This bizarre scheme is inspired by women’s reactions to the cocky, but quick-witted, stripper Buddy “Keno” Walsh, played by senior theater performance major Dan Argese, and their willingness to throw money at him. After this, Jerry decides they could make a good deal of money with a one-night performance.
While Petrino’s character is the central focus, the musical looks into the lives of a group of men seeking some sort of answer, and oddly enough, it is this experience that transforms their lives. Petrino gave passion and believability to his performance that had the audience rooting for him to keep his son, played by Liam Smith, an eighth-grader from Charles Boehm Middle School.
Closest to Jerry is his best friend and fellow ex-steel mill worker Dave Bukatinsky (sophomore musical theater major Travis Przbylski). While Jerry is fighting to keep joint custody of his son, Dave is struggling to find himself. He is self-conscious and uncomfortable in his body, which has ultimately damaged his marriage to the bubbly Georgie (junior musical theater major Heather Baisley).
Jerry, with a reluctant Dave, starts the search for men to join their act. They find Malcolm (senior theater major Greg Clark). The men discover Malcolm, a socially awkward and quiet man still living with his mother, in the midst of a suicide attempt and save his life. In a hysterical way, Jerry and Dave help revive Malcolm’s desire to live by showing him he is not as alone as he believes himself to be. With Clark’s whimsical and physical humor, he became a highlight of the show.
Adding to this motley crew is senior musical theater major Caleb Funk’s character Harold Nicholas. The former boss at the steel mill, he would do anything for his wife — including lying to her about losing his job. He becomes the ringleader for the group. His wife, Vicki (sophomore musical theater major Rosie Webber), has over-the-top humor and fantastic spunk. Together they prove that opposites attract; Vicki’s vivacity works as a perfect balance to Harold’s softer, more down-to-earth nature. Most importantly, they show that love can conquer any problem.
The last two members of the strip act, who are added after they attend the auditions the men hold, are Noah “Horse” T. Simmons (junior musical theater major Rajeer Alford), whose dance moves range from the “funky chicken” to disco to the thriller dance, and Ethan Girard (sophomore musical theater major Kyle Geraghty), who also possesses a quirky, socially awkward humor.
Adding to the group is their musical consultant Jeanette, a washed-up theater worker (sophomore musical theater major Emma Rose Brooks). With her raspy voice and outlandish humor, Brooks was a wonderful comedic force that perfectly broke any moments of tension. As a character, she offers advice based on her own theater experiences and plays the musical accompaniment to the act. Collectively, the group was extraordinary and worked with great energy. With dynamic dance numbers, especially during songs such as “Michael Jordan’s Ball,” these six seemingly average joes showed they are anything but average. Each move was smooth and their voices created a perfectly in-tune harmony.
The scenery added to the believability of the production as well. Meant to take place in Buffalo, a genuine New York vibe was set. The simple set worked to show the more average circumstances of the characters. It moved from a dingy men’s bathroom in a strip club, where Jerry concocts his plan, to the homes of the men, to a rehearsal center with just a few props. The Brooklyn feel was clear for all to see and aided in helping the audience connect to the play.
Petrino, and the fantastic chemistry between Clark and Geraghty, truly made the show. Jerry, with Petrino’s warm nature and strong emotions, showed a “beer-drinking, real-life man,” that the audience was really rooting for. Malcolm and Ethan also grabbed audiences’ hearts and, with Clark and Geraghty’s chemistry, their awkward physical humor, and the contrast of Clark’s tenor voice to Geraghty’s deeper one, the two had an absolutely beautiful harmony and partnership.
While there may have been some pitchy moments throughout some songs and slips in regards to dialogue, the performance was one to remember, as it told a story much deeper than six men trying to make money off a strip act.
Still, stripping is what creates the moral of this tale. The story is about more than shedding clothes; it is about stripping away everything else going on — to where it is just people, love, friendship, family, yourself, all bare, for all the world to see.
With fantastic couples and an incredible cast, this show was tremendously done.
To answer the question, did they go the Full Monty?
Well, in this tasteful and hysterical musical, as the final number said, this group of guys really “Let it go.”
Printed in the 10/16/13 edition.