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Review #1
The Full Monty makeover is Broadway hit

By Oliver Poole

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> New York Times [registration required]
 
> The Full Monty - Fox Searchlight Pictures
 

 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 Woman.

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."

 


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