Friday, July 30, 2010

'The Full Monty' returns to the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse

It was only four years ago that the musical adaptation of the 1997 British comedy “The Full Monty” graced the stage of the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in Conway, N.H. but now it is back through Aug. 14 for all those who missed it the first time.

The stage version moves the action from Sheffield, England to Buffalo, N.Y., but the switch is merely cosmetic and the story is faithful to the film. When the local steel plant closes, six unemployed guys decide to take a cue for some Chippendales that came to town and do a strip show. They intend to compensate for not being the fittest, most talented bunch by going all the way — aka, the full monty.

Like the film, the stage version is very funny, but has a dramatic underbelly. Jerry (Nathaniel Shaw), the ring leader of the enterprise, needs the money for child support or he'll lose the rights to see his son Nathan (Liam Van Rossum). Dave (Andrew Lipman) is insecure about his weight and has become distant from his wife. Harold (Grant Golson) is afraid to tell his wife he has been laid off as she continues to live well beyond their means. There are serious things at stake, which makes the final strip have weight and significance.

The show is well cast from top to bottom. Shaw develops a believable and tender father-son relationship with Rossum. Lipman has some great one-liners and facial expressions to the antics around him, but also gets across his character's pain about his weight. Patrick Roberts as the most intellectually challenged of the group is funny as he repeatedly attempts to run up a wall like Donald O'Connor did in “Singin' in the Rain.”

Speaking of “Singin' in the Rain,” as was true with her work in the Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company's recent production of that show, Tara Tagliaferro is a scene stealer as Jeanette, a showbiz relic who decides to help the boys. Tagliaferro has some of the show's best lines, and she delivers them just right.

The show has an original score, so those expecting to hear some of the songs that appeared in the film like “Hot Stuff,” “You Sexy Thing” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On” will be disappointed. The score is passable with a couple bright numbers and a lot of unmemorable filler.

The show starts strongly with “Scrap,” a number set at a union meeting that captures the anger and frustration of being laid off with a dark sense of humor. The best song in the show is “Big Ass Rock,” a parody of Broadway ballads in which Jerry and Dave sing about how they'd gladly help Malcolm (Joe Byrne) commit suicide because they are such good friends.

The other major highlight is “Big Black Man” in which, despite his age, an older man name nicknamed Horse (Evan Smith) showcases his amazing dance moves during an audition. Smith's energy during this number is impressive.

“Scrap” and “Big Ass Rock” represent the tone the show should've taken. Both songs are knowing of Broadway formula and take a slightly satiric approach. They have a cynical bite. Unfortunately, too many of the songs are straightforward ballads. The problem with these ballads is that the dramatic scenes work on their own. All the ballads do is tell us how we are already feeling.

The second act gets weighed down with these cliché-laden songs. These songs are delivered sincerely, though, with a lot of emotion that compensates a lot for the lyrical flatness. Byrne is particularly affecting on “You Walk With Me.”

The show ends, naturally, with the big strip show and the song “Let it Go.” And, yes, although the audience only sees some bare bottoms, the men do take it all off. This final number is a lot of fun and is a worthy payoff to the rest of the show.

Tickets are $32 and may be reserved at the box office at 356-5776, which is open daily from 11 a.m., or online at

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