The 1990's were good to Terrence McNally. An already respected playwright (The Lisbon Traviata), he branched into bookwriting and scored his first Tony Award for 1993's Kiss of the Spider Woman. Three more Tonys followed quickly after: for the play Love! Valor! Compassion! in 1995, for the play Master Class in 1996 and for the book to Ragtime in 1998.
Now it's 2001 and McNally is back on the Tony nominations list, this time for penning the book to the raunchy and raucous The Full Monty. McNally, along with collaborating composer-lyricist David Yazbek wrought some changes on the hit British film from which the musical takes its plot and title.
For example, the story's location. No longer set in Sheffield, England, The Full Monty takes place in a depressed American steel town — Buffalo, New York. McNally has also peopled the piece with some new characters — a gorgeous gay stripper who beats the stuffing out of homophobic Jerry and the brassy, ballsy rehearsal pianist Jeanette, played by 2001 Tony Award nominee and Broadway newcomer Kathleen Freeman.
What attracted McNally to The Full Monty was its relevance to today's obsession with looks and perfect bodies. "I loved the movie. I love what it says about friendship, self-acceptance and saying, 'I'm okay with who am I am and what I look like,' which is a difficult issue for most of us to face in our lives."
"I really identify with these guys and I love their spirit. I love people who don't give up. I thought The Full Monty could be very funny and that it would make a great musical. I wanted to see the kinds of songs a composer and lyricist would come up with for these guys," McNally said. Whether or not McNally takes home Tony number five, he already has a collection at home. Where does he keep his four little prizes?
"In my work room," he answered. "They all sit in there on a table. And there is room for another."