Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Terrence McNally had the idea to turn the hit British film of the same name into a musical, changing the Sheffield, England, setting to Buffalo, New York, making it more immediate for American audiences. This was David Yazbek's first Broadway score, which was followed by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a modest hit, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a disastrous flop albeit one with a terrific score. The Full Monty was overshadowed by The Producers that season, but still ran for two years. It continues to have lots of life in regional theaters across the country.
I am always delighted to discover a new performer in a community theater project, and this time audiences are discovering a star. Keith Faris, a recent transplant from Cleveland, makes his area debut as Jerry Lukowski, a part that exposes quite a lot more than just his fine talent. He is a fine actor and singer, dances well, and has charisma. I can imagine him in many many leading roles. When there is a fine performance at the center of a production, it often seems that others in the cast rise to the occasion, and so it is here, with the supporting actors doing some of the best work I have seen from them, although all have been quite fine in other shows in the past. David Walker plays Jerry's best friend Dave Bukatinsky with a great deal of warmth, presence, and a fine singing voice. Jason Ellis is just right as Malcolm MacGregor and in his biggest moment, "You Walk with Me," I was crying. David Addis, after a couple of forgettable parts, has gotten one worthy of his talents, Ethan Girard. David Russell steps out of several ensembles into the part of Harold Nichols. His is fine performance, especially in the dancing sequences with Harold's wife Vicki, played by MariAnne Hernandez. I trust this will not be his last featured part. William Coleman emerges from the pit where he music directed several recent Manatee Players productions (Boynton Beach Club and Little Shop of Horrors) to play Noah "Horse" Simmons to great effect. Peg Harvey all but steals the show as Jeannette Burmeister. Madison Bradley plays Georgie Bukatinsky and Grace Vitale plays Pam Lukowski (she honed her acting skills at the much missed Starlite Players). Patrick Higgins plays Nathan Lukowski with honesty, showing the love between father and son. In smaller parts Craig Engle, Jason Lipton and all the members of the ensemble are excellent as well.
Much of the reason this production is so fine is that Dewayne Barrett has helped his cast really connect with the sense of loss these characters feel, being out of work and unable to find anything that is not completely degrading. Music director Rick Bogner and his merry band keep the musical end of the show lively. This fine production is enhanced by excellent scenic design by Donna Buckalter, costume design by Becky Evans, lighting design by Joseph Oshry.
The Full Monty represents the best of what our fine community theaters offer, a fine musical performed by amazing local talent. I come from an era where there was more professional work available. Many of the members of this cast would have been professionals in another era.
Manatee Players presents The Full Monty at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through May 7, 2017, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton; 941-748-0111, manateeplayers.com.
Cast: Jerry Lukowski: Keith Faris
The Full Monty Orchestra:
Directed by Dewayne Barrett