The play opened on Friday at the Albuquerque Little Theatre (224 San Pasquale Ave. SW) to a packed house. The stage was set in big city style—decked out in dramatic lights announcing the show's title and an otherwise appropriately dreary, well-used set placing us squarely in the down-and-out industrial town. Closely following the 1997 film from which it is adapted (the original set in Sheffield, UK), the stage play—and Albuquerque Little Theatre's production of it, closing out its 2018 season—has rare mass appeal.
Led by Matthew Campbell in the role of Jerry Lukowski, the awkward, well-meaning steel workers are guided to the stage after observing the local enthusiasm for—and profit shares of—a visiting troupe of Chippendale dancers. Campbell has all the swagger and confidence necessary for the lead role, and is a wonderful foil to supporting character Dave Bukatinsky, played by Brandon Price McDaniel. McDaniel is spot-on in the role of the reluctant best friend, full of self-doubt. Played with admirable restraint, the character brings stunning comic efficiency to the part.
Rely as it might on some tired stereotypes, fat jokes and gendered ideas to garner a few laughs—there's something more at stake here then a few dollars or landing a punch line. This is the story of individuals who are floundering, and in turn, desperately attempting to regain their dignity. That's what is being risked in each scene, at every ridiculous turn as the group learns to dance, and in more than one instance, pulls off tear-away pants.
As audiences quickly learn, The Full Monty is built upon the unexpected. Profanity is written into full-on musical numbers and red thongs abound. A stand-out song comes in feel good anthem of camaraderie, “You've Got a Friend,” wherein Jerry and Dave welcome a new member to their clique through an extended number about how they might assist one another’s suicide. This is the kind of stuff that I, for one, genuinely enjoy, and find too often missing from Albuquerque's musical theater scene.
Amplifying all this quirk are supporting characters, like the salty old club pianist played by a luminous Stephanie Larragoite or scene-stealing dancer and singer Hasani Olujimi in the role of Noah “Horse” T. Simmons.
What these characters are banking their success on—and the much-needed money they hope to generate—is that they are going to take it off—like, take it all off. Go “the full monty.” Do they actually go through with it? Is there nudity on stage? Would you feel uncomfortable watching this with your mom? These are the questions audiences carry with them into the theater, and its part of the fun of watching the show play out.
This play isn't about changing the world. It's not about characters making substantive life changes or securing sustainable, better futures for themselves. None of the characters have much evident interiority. And that's OK. What is most foundational to The Full Monty is its ridiculousness—and that is what makes it so fun and different. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is downright charming.
Catch The Full Monty, directed by Henry Avery, at Albuquerque Little Theatre on weekends through June 17. Tickets start at $15 and can be found at albuquerquelittletheatre.org.