We almost got it. We almost got the full monty.
But, sadly, before the six studs of Broadway's musical The Full Monty could get their boxers off, director Jack O'Brien interrupted, telling the assembled press folk that if they wanted the real thing -- the full monty -- they'd have to pay for it. There was an appreciative laugh, but the show's final number, "Let It Go," with its "love cadets" in cop regalia, doing sexy stripper moves accompanied by good-natured flirting with the audience, really does build up to that final moment in the theatre when the lights will go bright and the G strings will fly.
Despite their clothing, the cast was giving the full monty -- which, incidentally, means to take something to the hilt, a la Field Marshal Bernard "Monty" Montgomery, whose big pre-battle breakfasts may have inspired the term. For these desperate guys trying to become erotic dancers, well, it means...well, you know.
Just like in the show, "Let It Go" was the payoff. The special Sept. 12 performance began with "Michael Jordan's Ball," set in an empty factory where Harold Nichols (Marcus Neville) is attempting to teach the other men how to dance. They can't get it until Jerry Lukowski (Patrick Wilson) hits on the perfect solution -- basketball. Any of the men can fake, spin and shoot like Michael Jordan, so why can't they turn the legend's moves into dances? With an imaginary basketball dribbling between them to the sounds of snare drum, the men gain the confidence to turn a slam dunk into a strip.
O'Brien brought Mitchell on afterwards. The tall choreographer of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, "In & Out" and Broadway Bares often played basketball with his brother growing up and used that experience to create the dance. The second number, "Big Ass Rock" sounds a little bit like a typical paean to friendship, a "Wind Beneath My Wings" with a dark soul. In this song, Jerry and Dave (John Ellison Conlee) come upon the none-too-bright Malcom (Jason Daniely), who has just tried to kill himself in his car. As the two suggest various ways for Malcom to off himself -- including using a big rock to squash him, rope to hang him or a club to beat him to death with -- the suicidal man finds his reason to live: he finally has friends.
Unlike the movie, this Full Monty gives several moments to its female cast. The guys' feisty elderly accompanist Jeanette sings "Jeanette's Blues," while Emily Skinner has her own big number. But the woman leading this preview's performance was Annie Golden (An Empty Plate at the Cafe du Grand Boeuf, "Hair"), who stars as Georgie Bukatinski, Dave's sexually unsatisfied wife. Her song, with support from Laura Marie Duncan, Jannie Jones and Liz McConahay, was "It's a Woman's World," set in the men's room as a group of girls invade it after watching a set of Chippendale strippers. The horny ladies sing about the stripper's attributes in the way men are accused of eyeing up women, while feeling empowered by their takeover of such a mysterious male space.
The tunes are rock-esque and the brainchildren of composer-lyricist David Yazbek. Yazbek is a pop songwriter who is best known for co-writing the theme to "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" with Sean Altman of Rockapella. He has produced for XTZ, Space Hog and Tito Puente, while opening as a singer-songwriter for the acts Verve Pipe, the Samples and Ben Folds Five. His albums include "The Laughing Man," named Pop Album of the Year by NAIRD/AFIM, and 1998's "Tock."
For a first-time theatre writer, Yazbek seems unusually calm about the whole process. It's writing songs for children that put him at ease. There he was challenged to write for actual characters, a skill he needs in the realm of musical theatre, and a skill he says pop songwriters in the theatre field often lack.
Yazbeck also credits bookwriter Terrence McNally with the success of The Full Monty. The Tony Award winning McNally -- well known for the books to Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman, as well as his plays Corpus Christi, The Lisbon Traviata and the very-naked Love! Valour! Compassion! -- was in San Francisco during the preview, where he is working on the book to an opera version of "Dead Man Walking."
Perhaps it's merely the fun of the show that draws people to the musical. Certainly it brought Kiss Me, Kate's Marin Mazzie out to watch her husband Daniely give it all (almost) to the press. Does she like what he's doing in the show?
"Yes!" she answered enthusiastically. "That's why I'm here!"
The Full Monty begins previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Sept. 26 with an opening set for Oct. 26. The musical opened its world premiere June 1 at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre where it ran through July 9.