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April Boyle

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Follow her on Twitter: @ahboyle

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Posted: June 10, 2015

‘The Full Monty’ fully captivates at Maine State Music Theatre

Written by: April Boyle
Megan Elyse Fulmer as Delores, Charis Leos as Georgie, Jillian Jarrett as Estelle and Cary Michelle Miller as Joanie in Maine State Music Theatre’s “The Fully Monty.”

Megan Elyse Fulmer as Delores, Charis Leos as Georgie, Jillian Jarrett as Estelle and Cary Michelle Miller as Joanie in Maine State Music Theatre’s “The Fully Monty.”

Maine State Music Theatre opens its summer season with a production of “The Full Monty” that features an unabashed cast, a boisterous score, entertaining choreography, a heartfelt storyline and a highly anticipated final number that won’t soon be forgotten.

When the curtain rises, it’s as if the audience has been transported to a glitzy strip club in Buffalo, New York, featuring a mesmerizing red foil fringe curtain and a male dancer (Seth Danner) who really knows how to shake his rear end.

The rollicking striptease fun is paused as Bob Klingelhoefer’s innovative set rolls and shifts, morphing into the depressed city setting, where laid-off factory workers are meeting with their union rep (David Girolmo). The monochromatic set lends a sharp contrast, accentuating the despair expressed by the workers in the song “Scrap.”

Then, the set transforms back to Anthony Giordano’s strip club, this time the men’s bathroom. The fun kicks back into high gear as two of the former factory workers – best friends Jerry Lukowski (Peter Matthew Smith) and Dave Bukatinsky (Jayson Elliott) – overhear what the women in their lives really think of them in “It’s a Women’s World.” When the male dancer mistakes the friends for strippers, Jerry concocts a seemingly harebrained scheme for them to make money and regain their lost self-worth.

“The Full Monty” provides plenty of delightfully awkward moments and laugh-out-loud striptease fun as Jerry, Dave and four other out-of-work men attempt to learn how to be exotic male dancers. But, the musical also addresses the serious issues that accompany unemployment: depression, worthlessness, loss of dignity, anxiety and self-doubt. And, for Jerry, it could mean losing custody of his son Nathan, delightfully played by young Austin Nedrow.

Under the direction of Donna Drake, Maine State Music Theatre’s cast balances the laughs with seriousness, offering genuine feeling among the outrageous antics.

Chuck Ragsdale as Malcolm and Jayson Elliott as Dave.

Chuck Ragsdale as Malcolm and Jayson Elliott as Dave.

Smith endearingly plays the down-and-out dad, Jerry. His clear tenor vocals tug at the heartstrings as his character professes his overwhelming love for his son in “Breeze Off the River.” And, it’s clear that his feelings also still run deep for his ex-wife Pam, compassionately played by Amanda Rose.

Chuck Ragsdale, who delivers the perfect amount of awkward flair as mama’s boy Malcolm MacGregor, also gets to show off his emotional side in the beautiful duet “You Walk With Me.” Michael J. Austin joins him as Ethan Girard, lending strong harmony vocals.

The well-executed score, under the direction of Aaron McAllister, nicely drives the emotion and humor of the production, often simultaneously. The duet “You Rule My World” is both hysterical and touching as Harold Nichols, played with just the right amount of snobbish bravado by Jonathan Rayson, sings about his socialite wife being his everything, while Dave sings to his protruding stomach. Through the silliness, Elliott exudes a boyish vulnerability that is absolutely lovable.

The sentiment of the duet is reinforced when Harold’s wife, Vicki (Laurie Wells), and Dave’s wife, Georgie (Charis Leos), reprise the song in the second act. Wells and Leos deliver a powerful, poignant duet.

The cast is stacked with talented performers. Kingsley Leggs is a scene-stealer as Noah “Horse” T. Simmons. His soulful vocals and smooth dance moves on “Big Black Man” had the audience cheering opening night.

Sandy Rosenberg is also unforgettable as eight-time divorced showbiz veteran, Jeanette Burmeister. “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number” is a definite highlight.

This production of “The Full Monty” comes to Maine State following a nearly four-week run at Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which ended May 17. The result is a polished production, with strong rapport among the cast. The friendship among the actors feels real, and they are clearly having a blast.

And so does the audience. As the guys prepare to “Let it Go” for the finale, the audience gets to let go and have fun with this upbeat comedy. It’s captivating to the very end.

Maine State Music Theatre’s “The Full Monty”

WHERE: Pickard Theater, Bowdoin College campus, 1 Bath Road, Brunswick
DATE REVIEWED: June 5; continues through June 20
TICKETS & INFO: $43 to $70; 207-725-8769 or msmt.org

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