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Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s The Full Monty

More than one long tease

Meet Hot Metal, an amateur stripper revue featuring six unemployed steelworkers desperate to make a buck in Buffalo. The Chippendales they ain’t — with average dance moves and less than average abs — but that’s just the thong, er thing. Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to keep body, soul and family together.

            The Full Monty, playing for the next three weekends at the Annapolis Summer Garden Theater, is based on the British film whose everyman cast was a breakout hit in 1997. It enjoyed a two-year run on Broadway in the early 2000s, then, ironically, closed before the economy tanked and the story gained a whole new level of plausibility.

            Jerry (Eric Hufford) is a loveable fu@!-up, separated from his wife Pam (Kaitlin Fish) and desperate to retain joint-custody of their teen, Nathan (Matthew Beagan). For that to happen he needs cash assets fast; only Walmart is hiring, and they don’t pay $hit. His buddy (Dean Allen Davis) Dave’s  marriage to Georgie (Cara Marie Pellegrino) is likewise limping along.

            In a flash of inspiration, they decide to emulate a local act the ladies adore, Keno, aka Buddy (Paul Pesnell) the buff boytoy.

            Their first recruit is Malcolm (Christian Gonzalez), sole support of his invalid mother Molly (Stephanie Bernholz), and in the midst of trying to commit suicide when they recruit him in the hilarious Big Ass Rock, a litany of the ways in which his newfound friends can help him accomplish the deed.

             Next is Ethan (Justin Thomas Ritchie), a naive optimist bent on replicating Donald O’Connor’s unconventional wall-walking from Singing in the Rain.

            They find their choreographer in a ballroom dance class. Harold (Brandon Deitrick), a former boss who is polishing his Latin moves for a Puerto Rican vacation with wife Vickie (Caitlyn Ruth McClellan), who is unaware he’s been laid off.

            Noah, aka Horse (Willie Baker), is an oldster who dazzles with some smooth moves from his youth in the terrific ensemble number Big Black Man.

            Jeanette (Adam Timko) is their tough-as-nail-polish accompanist and mentor, an old trouper who, in this production, is depicted as a cross-dresser with an unabashedly male voice and demeanor.

            Billed as “more than one long tease — a story full of heart, hope and surprising sincerity,” this show’s best moments are its most tender: You Rule My World featuring Davis and Deitrick, whose characters have marriage troubles … the reprise sung by Pellegrino and McClellan, as their wives … the duet You Walk with Me, sung by downcast Gonzalez and optimistic Ritchie … and sweet-guy-who-can’t-grow-up Hufford’s contemplative Breeze Off the River.

            The best fast-paced number is the Act I finale, Michael Jordan’s Ball. Entertaining with athletic-inspired dance moves, it leads the audience to expect more from the less-than-inspired climax, when the dancers finally Let It Go to a chorus of audience catcalls.

            Act II is draggy and plagued by dialog problems.

            Additionally, there is the issue of body-specific dialogue often spouted by the wrong physical-type, when other directorial choices could have made for a more believable production.

            Contrary to rumors and despite the opening night’s sell-out crowd, tickets are still available. Be warned, however, that this production is rated R for nudity, language and content, and there is a specific advisory against bringing children.

 

The Full Monty by Terrence McNally and David Yazbek. Director: Mason Catharini. Music director: Emily L. Sergo. Choreographer: Andrew Gordon. Production manager: Matthew Walter. Stage manager: Atticus Cooper Boidy. Set: Ryan Ronan. Costumes: Madeline Hogue. Lights: Matthew Tillett. Sound: Bill Reinhardt. Musicians: Ken Kimble, Rich Estrin, Randy Neilson, Dean Pesnell, Allyson Wesley, Reid Bowman and Declan Hughes. With Kevin Cleaver, Angel Duque, Wendell Holland, Leigh K. Rawls, Chris Timko and Heidi Tolson.

 

Playing Thurs.-Sun. thru July 22, plus Wed. July 19, at 8:30 pm @ Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, 143 Compromise St., Annapolis. $25, rsvp: 410-268-9212;  www.summergarden.com.