Exposing Oneself to Art

This afternoon we went out to Saugus to see the current production of one of our favorite small theatres, the Repertory East Playhouse: “The Full Monty”. This was one of the playhouse’s most ambitious productions to date, with 31 scenes, a revolving turnable on the stage, and 20 cast members.

For those not familiar with “The Full Monty” (book by Terrence McNally, music and lyrics by David Yazbek), it tells the story of six men in Buffalo NY who are dealing with picking up their life after a plant closure. The resulting long-term unemployment has put stress in their lives. Jerry is trying to maintain a relationship with his son, while unable to pay back child support. Dave has put on weight and has distanced himself from his wife due to loss of self-esteem. Harold is attempting to keep up the facade that he is working, but it is all about to come crumbling down. Horse has been fired from McDonalds for not being cheerful enough. Malcolm is still living with his mother. You get the picture. To earn funds, these men form a group to do a male strip. In preparing and rehearsing, they realize what is important in their lives. I know I’m not doing the synopsis justice–the full summary of the plot is more detailed. Suffice it to say that the focus of the story is really on the family and the relationships, not the strip. Yes, you do see a lot of bare butts, but the “full monty” is more implied.

The REP East production was quite well done. Songs were, for the most part, well sung and the lyrics were very clear. In fact, I found the REP East expression of the lyrics much more understandable, and allowed me to see the similarity between these lyrics and those of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, also written by Yazbek. The lyrics were equally clever and full of hidden meanings. The performances were all excellent, although there were a few line hesitations (this was only the third performance). I was particularly taken by the expressive faces of George Chavez (Jerry) and Erin Rivlin (Georgie Bukatinsky, Dave’s wife). The entire cast was having fun with this one, as was the audience who became part of the action.

I should note that one of the most fun parts of the show was watching nsshere’s reactions.

The male leads (i.e., the ones who bared more than their souls) were George M. Chavez II (Jerry Lukowski), Kevin High* [MyS] (Dave Bukatinsky), George D. Cummings (Harold Nichols), Jarod Scott [MyS] (Malcom MacGregor), Aaron Wong (Ethan Girard), and Tyrone “Tippy” Washington (Noah/Horse). On the female side, there was Allissa-Nicole Koblentz (Pam Lukowski), Erin Rivlin (Georgie Bukatinsky), Lori D’Itri (Vicki Nichols), Kelly Bader (Estelle Genovese), Amber Clark (Susan Hershey), and Amber Van Loon (Joanie/Molly MacGregor). Ross Mayer played Jerry’s son, Nathan Lukowski, and Marla Khayat played their accompanyist, Jeanette Burmeister. Rounding out the cast were Jeff Hyde (Minister/Police Sergeant), Joe Montgomery* (Reg Willoughby/Repo Man 2), John Morris (Teddy Slaughter), Angelo Romanelli (Buddy “Keno” Walsh), Don Sweezer (Tony Giordano) and Brian Watts (Marty Jackson/Repo Man 1). Most of those links were to MySpace pages; you can find full professional bios at the REP East site.

On the technical side, the program was directed by Leslie Berra assisted by Jennifer Rennels-Magon. The production was produced by Mikee Schwinn. Lauren Pearsal was Stage Manager. Sets were by Jeff Hyde assisted by Jim Robinson. Vocal direction was by John Morris. Nancy Alternman was the Choreography, with sound design by Steven “Nanook” Burkholder, lighting by Tim Christianson, and costumes by Claudia Alexopoulos. The artistic director of REP East is O. Michael Owston.

“The Full Monty” continues at REP East until June 14.

As for us, what’s next on the theatre calendar. Next Sat Evening (5/24) @ 8pm we’re seeing “Of Mice and Men” at Pasadena Playhouse (I should note we’ll be seeing the same show later in the year at REP East: they are doing it in late September). The following weekend all of nsshere’s hard work pays off in the production of “Grease” at Nobel Middle School (5/29 @ 6:30pm, 5/30 @ 6:30pm, and 5/31 @ 2:30pm and 6:30pm). June brings “A Very Brady Musical” at Theatre West (Sat, 6/14 @ 8pm) and “A Chorus Line” @ Ahmanson Theatre (Sat, 6/28 @ 2pm). Lastly, July brings “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Ahmanson Theatre (Sun 7/13 @ 1pm), “Looped” at Pasadena Playhouse (Sat 7/26 @ 8pm), and “Singing in the Rain” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (Sat 7/31 @ 2pm). I’m still exploring tickets for “Songs From an Unmade Bed” at Celebration Theatre (6/22 or 7/5) and “Parade” at Neighborhood Playhouse, Palos Verdes (7/13).