by Peter Clark
Last night I had the pleasure of watching the Jewish Community Center’s Center Stage open their hearts and their pants in the movie-turned-musical, The Full Monty. It was a mixed performance that I have a hard time criticizing too much, as the audience that attended this opening night performance obviously had a great time.
Telling the story of laid off Buffalo iron workers trying to earn some money and regain their confidence in the face of local ridicule, a group of six guys decide to start a troupe of male strippers with their sights set on one big performance. The movie was a beloved film in the late nineties, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Entering the theater, my main question had to do with how successfully that could translate into a musical. Unfortunately, the translation did not end up too well. With a clunky plot, some uninspired songs, and unearned dramatic moments, I cannot call it a great musical. However, that says nothing as to this specific performance. And even given less-than-incredible material, I believe that the dedicated cast and crew of Center Stage did a pretty fine job.
Inventively set within brick panels and two rotating walls, with some truly expert lighting, the production accomplished the feel of separate parts of a working class town. The performers, for the most part, tried their hardest to make the most of the show. As the script bounced wildly around to different short scenes, the cast kept up well, adding as much weight as they could to the light writing. They stretched their voices to accommodate the sometimes-uneven songs, with the firm help of a wonderful band. And when it came to the final scenes, they certainly gave it their all.
A few notable players include Pete Lay as the main character Jerry. I loved him in Center Stage’s last musical Curtains, and he did a good job here as well, lending a fine voice and an energetic presence. I also enjoyed Frank Goodloe III as Horse, kindly and entertaining, he did come across as a full character. And Kate E Reedy as Mrs. Nichols sang beautifully and really made some charming salsa choreography work for her.
As I said at the beginning, the crowd had a wonderful time responding to the fun comedic timing and passionate performances. For an entertaining, easy night out, I can recommend it as a light-hearted showing of the community’s talent. And as the final climactic scenes revs up and gets going, it certainly ends up as the spectacle that was promised. In the kind words of my theater companion, “Oh, bless their hearts, they sure did it.”