`Full Monty' has a lot of heart

Theater Column

June 22, 2006|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK | J. WYNN ROUSUCK,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Like the steelworkers-turned-strippers in The Full Monty, Cockpit in Court took a chance with this musical, which is receiving its first homegrown local production at the summer theater.

But while some of the show's language and situations may be a bit raw, ultimately, Monty has a lot of heart. Indeed, the central achievement of the 1997 British movie, the 2000 musical adaptation, and Cockpit's production is that you find yourself rooting for this motley assortment of out-of-work, out-of-shape guys.

Playwright Terrence McNally moved The Full Monty's setting from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, N.Y., but the plot is basically unchanged. Divorced, unemployed and behind on child support, a perpetual loser named Jerry - empathetically portrayed by Stephen Antonsen - is convinced he can clear his debts by staging a one-night-only, all-male strip show, starring himself and some former co-workers from a shuttered steel mill.

Director/choreographer James Hunnicutt's production is initially slow going. But the pace picks up in the audition scene, particularly when Aaron Androh breaks into his enthusiastic number, "Big Black Man."

McNally added the character of a salty pianist, who shows up unexpectedly and never leaves. Harriette Bush Clark hits all the right notes in this curmudgeonly role, getting the second act off to a rousing start with her appropriately titled, "Showbiz Number."

Despite its seemingly titillating subject matter, The Full Monty turns out to be a celebration of the bond between friends (especially Jerry and his overweight buddy, Dave, touchingly played by John Ford) and between father and son (Hereford Middle Schooler Casey Kolb ably portrays Jerry's son).

It even celebrates the bond between husbands and wives, whether blue-collar Dave and his patient wife (Liz Boyer Hunnicutt) or laid-off white-collar boss (Jeff Burch) and his devoted spouse (Laurie Sentman Starkey).

The orchestra, under the baton of R. Christopher Rose, does a nice, brassy job with songwriter David Yazbek's rock-flavored score. But the amplification system muddies many of Yazbek's lyrics, as well as portions of McNally's dialogue.

Cockpit's other musical this summer is Meredith Willson's Music Man. The theater could have opened with that squeaky clean chestnut. Instead, it chose a show that may be riskier, but is scarcely risque.

The Full Monty continues through July 2 at Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre, on the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, 7201 Rossville Blvd. Tickets are $18. Call 410-780-6369 or visit ccbcmd.edu/cockpit.

Yard sale

Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St., will hold a prop and costume yard sale from 8 a.m.-noon Saturday. Items range from the tiny glass unicorn that appeared in The Glass Menagerie to bathrobes from Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.

In other Everyman news, the 2006-2007 cabaret series has already generated so much interest that the theater has added extra performances. The new dates are: Broadway Boys, Nov. 12-14 and 19-21; Sondheim Tonight!, April 15-17 and 22-24. Tickets to the cabaret performances are on sale to season subscribers and go on sale to the general public Aug. 1. For information on the series or the yard sale, call 410-752-2208.

`King Lear'

When the six-month Shakespeare in Washington festival kicks off in 2007, one of the first offerings will be King Lear, co-produced by the Classical Theatre of Harlem and the Folger Theatre. Starring as Lear will be Baltimore native Andre de Shields. A two-time Tony Award nominee, de Shields created the title role in the 1975 musical The Wiz. Lear will run Sept. 27-Nov. 5 at New York's Harlem School of the Arts Theatre and Jan. 11-Feb. 18 at the Folger.

j.wynn.rousuck@baltsun.com

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