THE stage musical of the successful British comedy film The Full
Monty is taking New York by storm as thousands of theatre goers
rush to see the actors strip off in the final scene.
The show, which the producer says
will transfer to London's West End, was described as a "blaze
of pure mass appeal" by the New York Times theatre critic
after it opened last week. It is already proving difficult to
secure a seat until after Christmas and the musical's producers
are confident that they will quickly recoup the show's £4 million
budget - nearly twice the cost of the original 1997 British film.
The owners of the Eugene O'Neill
Theatre on Broadway, where the show is being staged, admit that
many in the audience attend because they are curious to see the
final scene, in which the six jobless steelworkers do "the
full monty" in a striptease. However, although the actors do
take all their clothes off, at the final moment powerful lights
shining towards the auditorium blaze behind them, reducing the
figures to silhouettes.
Lindsay Law, the show's producer,
said that he believed the musical was proving so successful that
he could sell an additional 300 tickets every night, if only there
was room to fit people in the theatre.
Mr Law said: "What grabbed
me when I first read the screenplay - and what continues to grab
audiences for both the movie and the musical - is the story of a
bunch of guys who overcome adversity. That's one of the six or
seven basic plots, but The Full Monty offered a fresh take on it,
as well as six characters you really cared about."
As in the British-made film,
which grossed £256 million worldwide
, the story follows the former steelworkers as they attempt to
restore their financial fortunes and self-respect after becoming
unemployed. It features the same characters but, instead of being
set in Sheffield, the story has been altered for an American
audience and is now based in Buffalo, New York State. Located in
the heart of the Rust Belt on the banks of Lake Erie, the area
suffered a similar industrial decline to South Yorkshire.
The producers have said that they
will take the show abroad, including to Britain, but it is not
known whether the setting will be switched back to Sheffield when
it opens in the West End.
Ben Brantley, the theatre
reviewer of the New York Times, said that the show was likely to
run on Broadway for a "long, long time". Mr Brantley
said: "The show calculatedly pushes as many buttons as
an elevator operator, but it mercifully doesn't hammer at them.
The Full Monty is that rare, aggressive crowd-pleaser that you
don't have to apologize for liking."
The music and lyrics are by David
Yazbek, a 38-year-old songwriter for whom the musical is his
Broadway debut. His score is described as a mixture of pop, swing
and jazz with an occasional rock 'n' roll flourish. The story was
written by Terrence McNally, who previously wrote the musicals
Ragtime - for which he won a Tony award - and Kiss of the Spider
As well as moving the setting to
Buffalo, changes have also been made to the plot to make it
relevant to an American audience. The scene in which the group
learns to dance by being told to step forward together and raise
their arms, in the style of the Arsenal defense appealing for
off-side, has been replaced by them being taught to whirl around
in the style of the basketball legend Michael Jordan.
New York used to have the
toughest reviewers in the world, but even though the days of the
Butcher of Broadway - when the New York Times critic Frank Rich
could close a show overnight with a bad review - ended with his
retirement in 1994, a cluster of bad notices can still cause a
production to close early. However, the New York Daily News
described The Full Monty as an "exuberant" show with
"witty and engaging songs".
Charles Spencer, The Telegraph
theatre critic, said that he believed the show would be a massive
hit if it opened on the West End. Mr Spencer said: "I
slightly worry for theatre as it seems to be a trend at the moment
to rehash films. We have had the shows like The Seven Year Itch
and The Graduate already.
Mr Spencer said: "However,
this musical is apparently good and I have heard it being talked
up for a while. I loved the movie - it was great fun - and it is a
story that would talk to an audience anywhere in the world.
Though, of course, they would need to change the story in order to
set it in Sheffield again."