Chicago, like the rest of the country, could have used a smile and a laugh Sept. 12. The city, which experienced a full downtown evacuation on Sept. 11 following the terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, DC, closed all of its fine arts organizations that evening. Sept. 12, however, the Second City was trying to "let it go" with the opening of The Full Monty at the Shubert Theatre.
There was good news that night for the company, who began previews Sept. 6 in their second national tour stop and their first in the United States (The Full Monty began in May in Toronto). The new musical comedy based on the popular film will extend two weeks, through Oct. 27.
Leading the six amateur strippers at the heart of The Full Monty is Rod Weber (Jekyll & Hyde, The Civil War) as Jerry. The gentleman's accompanist Jeanette is played by singing legend Kaye Ballard (The Golden Apple, Carnival). Also in the cast are Andrea Burns (Parade, Saturday Night) as Vicki Nichols, Chris Diamantopoulos (Les Miserables) as Ethan Girard, Susann Fletcher (Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Guys and Dolls) as Georgie Bukatinsky, Danny Gurwin (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Forbidden Broadway 2001) as Malcolm MacGregor, Carol Linnea Johnson as Pam Lukowski, Tony nominee Larry Marshall (Play On!, Porgy and Bess) as Noah "Horse" T. Simmons, Daniel Stewart Sherman (The Mineola Twins, Corpus Christi) as Dave Bukatinksy and Steven Skybel (Love! Valor! Compassion!, Ah Wilderness!) as Harold Nichols. Brett Murray and Bret Fox share the role of Jerry and Vicki's son, Nathan Lukowski.
The company consists of Heidi Blickenstaff, Erick Buckley, Don Burroughs, Kevin M. Burrows, Julie Foldesi, David Patrick Ford, Kimberly Harris, Patti Mariano, Dana Meller, James Moye, Milton Craig Nealy, Ryan Perry, Brad Sharp and David A. White.
Produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Lindsay Law and Thomas Hall, in association with Ed and David Mirvish, the tour will also reach Washington DC (Nov.), Boston (Colonial Theatre, beginning Jan. 17, 2002), Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver. For reservations in Chicago, call (312) 902-1400.
"The Full Monty" film was the surprise low-budget hit of 1997 with Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and wins with Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score. The movie told of six average-looking British men who decide to star in a strip show to raise money in their economical depressed mill town (The term "the full monty" means to take something to the fullest - in the case of the strippers, that means to get completely naked). Ironically, the movie ended just as the gents braved "the full monty" to a club filled with the town's populace.
Bookwriter Terrence McNally (Master Class, Love! Valor! Compassion!) and rock composer David Yazbek, however, opted to change the locale of the piece, moving it to Buffalo, New York from Sheffield, England. They have also added a few characters: a gorgeous gay stripper (Jones) who beats the stuffing out of homophobic Jerry (Wilson), and the guys' rehearsal pianist, Jeanette (Freeman), whose shining moment is "Jeanette's Showbiz Number."
Before opening on Broadway Oct. 26, The Full Monty began life at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre June 1 with good reviews and an Old Globe box office record. Performances extended there through July 9 before the show was remounted at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre Sept. 25, opening Oct. 26.