THE FULL MONTY by David Yazbek and Terrence McNally, directed by Jack O'Brien, with Andrea Burns, Chris Diamantopoulos, Bret Fox, Danny Gurwin, Larry Marshall, Brett Murray, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Steven Skybell, Rod Weber and Kaye Ballard. Presented by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Lindsay Law, Thomas Hall and David and Ed Mirvish at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge). Runs to September 1, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $40-$99. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNN
the full monty is a big tease. inspired by the 1997 film about laid-off steelworkers who bare all to raise money for one of their own, the new musical takes its money up front, declares it's about a serious issue, wiggles around amusingly to familiar music, bumps over some predictable patches, then grinds to an abrupt halt.With a passable book by Terrence McNally and smart lyrics and less smart music by a newcomer named David Yazbek, the show begins promisingly when two numbers -- Scrap and It's A Woman's World -- establish the situation and plot quickly. So far, so good.
The creators have replaced the film's Sheffield, England, setting with Buffalo, New York, and it's a savvy commercial move, although John Arnone's flimsy touring set makes the city seem uglier than anything on Eyewitness News.
Soon, though, The Full Monty hammers out its themes relentlessly within what turns out to be a solid, if unoriginal, structure. Like the music and choreography, the show's characters are types, which makes occasional brave moments -- a near suicide scene, a tiny gay love duet (blink and you'll miss it) -- less moving than they might have been. Other scenes, like the act-one closer that alludes to Michael Jordan, feel contrived and patronizing.
Luckily, the creators haven't ignored the show's heart, which is about dignity and acceptance, and one song, poignant in the first act, is even more so when it's reprised in the second.
The actors are well cast physically, even if they're not asked to do much vocally. In keeping with the show's proletariat feel, the men don't belt high notes -- they falsetto, like Springsteen karaoke singers.
The women have a stronger presence here than in the film, and the musical's one major addition, a crusty old rehearsal pianist, seems like a ploy to ensure a healthy older demographic. Kaye Ballard plays the role with charm and chutzpah, delivering each line as if there were a laugh track.