THE FULL MONTY
Rochdale Musical Theatre Company
Director: Howard G Raw
Musical Director: Richard Lord
In a long list of successful films turned into musicals The Full Monty has had the full treatment. It is the story of six men trying to find their own self-worth at a time when their worlds are unravelling. The location has been moved from Sheffield to Buffalo. I feel the musical lacks the gritty provincialism of the original. Music and lyrics contribute to dramatic content but misses what Billy Eliot so successfully achieved.
As any nomadic company will attest, playing in a leisure centre is not always ideal. The company had hired the scenery which was on trucks to be wheeled on and off as required. To make this production work, all areas of the stage and wing space had to be part of the overall picture.. Another challenge was being able to accommodate the ensemble, and other characters. If not used properly they would have had time to knit a jumper sitting in their dressing rooms.
As it was, the orchestra was split into sections. Half of the pit space (there was no pit but you will understand the idea) was free for the cast in which to perform. This meant it had a more meaningful and positive part to play. The other half of the orchestra was at stage level. An inset stage left allowed the drama to continue whilst allowing freedom of movement for setting the next scene. The staging therefore worked hand in hand with the unfolding story. The stage manager, Chris Amis, and crew credibly cued in and set without any interruption to the unfolding narrative.
Six male leads and their respective partners and family members, all with a smattering of cameo roles, make up the show. All have to deliver fully believable characters, and they did. The director got the best out of the script and his cast with a truly creative presentation. For me, the production highlight was the finale act one, “Michael Jordan’s Ball”.
The would-be “Chippendales” were played by Phil Swift (Jerry) Mike Wignall (Dave) Dan Killeen (Malcolm) Marvin Nixon (Noah) Josh Gwynne (Ethan) and Steve Royal (Harold).
Each of them brought humour and pathos to his character. Their scenes together displayed the camaraderie that helps the steelworkers fight though their inner demons. Encouraging his dad, Jerry, is his son Nathan, Sean Caffey showed understanding of the boy’s bond with his dad.
On the other side of the coin we have the ladies who know nothing of the reason for the strip. The domestic stresses and strains were sympathetically displayed as was their bawdy enthusiasm when out together socialising. There were a lot of emotions that needed careful handling as well as getting the humour across.
The ladies were Vicki (Karen Huyton), George (Francesca Astley) and Sarah Croke (Pam). Their story couldn’t be told without the other girls to play off. They gave equal performances, not forgetting Joanna Astley’s well-drawn characterisation of Jeanette the lads’ rehearsal pianist.
This pacey, punchy production was entertaining and captured the audience imagination: their woo wooing and applause were the pay off.