The Full Monty Delivers Everything You Hope for at Mac-Haydn This Summer

A Buffalo, New York steel mill has been closed and the workers are getting desperate. They see their wives enjoying a night out watching the Chippendales and decide that they can make a fast buck by stripping. In a fit of excitement and lagging sales, they announce to a group of women who are teasing them about the upcoming event, that, unlike the Chippendales, they will go the “Full Monty.”

The Full Monty by Terrance McNally, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, is actually less about the finale and more about the journey the six men travel to get there. It is at times hysterically funny, at times pathetically sad, moving, stirring, and reaffirming; in other words, it offers a little bit of everything and finally quite a bit of skin. While many might disagree with me, the play is actually less about their undressing physically and more about stripping away layers of emotions. Guilt at not being able to provide for their families, anxiety about their bodies (Spoiler alert, these are not your average-looking Chippendale dancers!), and what their futures look like are the actual genesis of the play. 

Dean Marino as Dave, Xander James as Jerry, Gabe Belyeu as Harold, and Tezz Yancey as Horse. Photo by Ann Kielbasa

Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham has done a total flip from their last production.  We have gone from a deeply disturbing play about life to what is ultimately a fun look at life, in spite of the previous paragraph, that everyone will have left the theatre with a smile on their faces and a bit of laughter in their hearts. There may be a few gentlemen who will look into the mirror a bit differently when they get home and some partners may look at their men in a different light. 

Director Todd Underwood has done a wonderful job juxtaposing the light and the dark of his performers. He has brought shades of gray and color beautifully onto the stage. Choreographer Elizabeth McGuire returns to the Mac stage and does amazing work with her large cast. She transforms the mismatched group of men into a united dancing team by the show’s end. She also puts on the stage some wonderful solo numbers, notably, Tezz Yancey’s (Horse) number “Big Black Man”. Yancey captivates from the moment he appears on stage, his comic timing, and incredible dancing moves have the audience right in the palm of his hand. All of the talent on the stage, and it is chock full, is tied together under the tutelage of Music Director Emily Croome.

Gabe Belyeu as Harold, Aidan Brennan as Nathan, Dean Marino as Dave, Kylan Ross as Malcolm and Xander James as Jerry. Photo by Ann Kielbasa

Xander James returns to the stage in the country again this summer as Jerry Lukowski, the group’s ring leader hatches the plan to strip. He is perfect for the part, a little too old to take off his clothes in public, but young enough to be convinced that it is the only way to make the money he needs to keep his ex-wife from getting full custody of their son. He convinces his overweight best friend Dave, beautifully played by Dean Marino. We empathize with him, feel his frustrations and ultimately cheer him on. The love song, “You Rule My World”, Marino shares with Mac mainstay Gabe Belyeu as they each sing to their respective spouses is one of the shows moving emotional high points.  

The Full Monty strippers are round out by Kylan Ross and Andrew Burton Kelly who have what is perhaps the most moving duet in the play, “You Walk with Me”.  Theirs is the most subtle and moving subplot in the show. Aidan Brennan shares the role of Jerry’s son Nathan with Mason Hutchinson. He is in many ways, the voice of reason in the play, at least for Jerry. The high school sophomore’s opening night performance proves Brennan has a wonderful innate ability, ease on the stage, and talent.

Xander James as Jerry. Photo by Ann Kielbasa

Not to be outdone, the ladies in the cast also shine brightly. Julia Hajjar, as Georgie, Dave’s frustrated and yet so in love with his wife, trying to figure out what is wrong, and  Erin Spears Ledford as Harold’s wife, Vicki whom Harold gives very little credit for having any depth of character have stunning moments and share a beautiful reprisal of “You Rule My World” that they sing to their husbands. 

Finally is the larger-than-life character of Jeanette, a perhaps second-rate, over-the-hill pianist who happens into the rehearsals and accompanies the gentlemen on their journey to show time. Jeanette is a no holds barred, tell ‘em what you think out loud, funny, self-deprecating bleach blonde with hair that is too big, even for the times, character. 

Monica Wemitt comes out of the Mac’s office and onto the stage for the first time in several years. It is pure joy to see her back. She inhabits Jeanette, or perhaps Jeanette inhabits her. As she moves around the stage, her nuanced glances both to the characters on stage and more subtly to the audience as if to say, you know do what’s going on here, will have you laughing out loud. Her big number, aptly called “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number” proves that Wemitt still has all the vocal pipes needed to put over a big gutsy belting production number. If one were to figure out what has been missing on the Mac stage without ever realizing it, you need to think about it no longer. It is wonderful to have Wemitt back where she belongs.

Dean Marino as Dave and Julia Hajjar as Georgie. Photo by Ann Kielbasa

The Full Monty is an evening filled with laughs, some tears, high energy and great fun.  And to boot, you see the most anticipated finale in theatrical history.

The Full Monty has settled in for a three-week run, through September 4. Proof of vaccination and masks are required in the theatre. All tickets are $45.

For more information on reservations, www.machaydntheatre.org or call the box office: 518-392-9292.

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