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Theater Reviews

Oct 16, 2005 - "The Full Monty" plays Reno where the full "Montessa" has been raging for years

By Jack Neal

Reno probably didn't invent topless shows but it certainly became famous for them.

Compared to Greg Thompson's topless "Bareback," now at Harrah's Reno, "The Full Monty," the 1997 British movie, is but a mere ripple in a sea of public nudity. That's also the case with the musical "The Full Monty" which opened at Reno's Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts Friday night (10/14/05 before a large crowd eager to see it all.

Watching out-of-work, mostly out-of-shape men take a page out of the Chippendale's book of bare flesh to raise needed money for their families is a fun and sweet idea. Unfortunately those charms are sandwiched among some tedious moments. What "The Full Monty" is, is a one-joke show that takes the better part of three hours getting to its punch line.

Terrence McNally's book is part of the problem. "The Full Monty" can't make up its mind whether it wants to be a musical comedy or "Death of a Salesman." Obviously a musical comedy, those moments towards the show's resolution that deal with death, gay love and what's really important in life, are - as they say in court - put out for an audience (the jury) to swallow (and quickly) without ever having been properly established. It takes motivation and a bit of time before touching soundbites can be affecting.

Some of Mr. McNally's writing is laced with humor and that's a plus. Another plus, some of composer/lyricist David Yazbek's lyrics are witty, even if the show's score lacks being memorable. The lovely song "You Walk With Me" is an exception and is the show's one song that allows a performer to actually sing and Steve DuBryne (Malcolm) sings it beautifully.

A big drag, which places an added burden on singers, is the show's excellent six piece pit band. It just doesn't have enough horses to flesh out the ultra-thin orchestrations. The sound coming from the pit is strip-joint sound which - under the circumstances - has its point, but... Not that members of the cast aren't up to the challenge of singing over something that's not much. They are. When given a chance, the show's twenty-something cast members sound like they can sustain a note and project an excellent sound.

Even though there's such a scattering of characters making bonding negligible, the cast is uniformly excellent and works well together.

Jeremiah Zinger (Jerry) is, ostensibly, "The Full Monty's" star. He's onstage more than anyone else, and - save for an occasional sing-song delivery of lines - he's a class act. His singing of "Breeze Off the River" is one of "Monty's" lovelier moments. Joe Coots (Dave) is Jerry's heavyset sidekick and he more than holds up his end of the bargain. Jerry's boy, Nathan, is managed wonderfully by Connor Austin Jones (at some performances by Caden Michael Gray). Nathan's mom, Pam, is brought off with assurance by Lindsay Thomas. Penny Larson (Jeanette), the piano player with the heart of gold, is perfectly cast.

The pizzazzy Happy McPartlin (Georgie) shifts matters into high gear the moment "Monty" opens. A muscular and ripped Travis Dixon (Buddy the Chippendale) gets the show off to even more of a flying start by showing off nearly all his wares. If stripping is an art, then Mr. Dixon is an artist. Gary Brintz (Ethan), the chap who wants to repeat Donald O'Connor's "Make 'em Laugh" routine from "Singin' In the Rain," is a perpetual delight. In a nifty attention-getting role Troy Scarbrough (Horse) knows how to make the most of his moments in the spotlight. As the Nichols, Kristin Stewart (Vicki) and Chris George (Harold) are standouts, as are all in this talented cast.

Keith Andrews direction is swift enough to satisfy. Jim Osorno's choreography is adequate, which is what it should be, and - at the show's highly anticipated grand finale - sizzling in an amateur way and oodles of fun. John Coffey's music direction keeps things moving. Mark T. Simpson's pin-point lighting lets an audience see what it should and not see what it shouldn't. John Arnone's scenic designs are functional and unobtrusive. Robert Morgan's costumes (or lack of them) do what they need to do.

An adult show, "The Full Monty" is neither particularly crude nor erotic. When it's at its best, what it can be is endearing and sweet.

"The Full Monty" can be seen at the Pioneer Center For the Performing Arts, 100 South Virginia Street, Reno, Nevada, Friday (10/14/05) at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday (10/16) at 2 and 7 p.m. For information call 775-686-6600.

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