12742809_10156552630520084_1007867877412022894_nBy Manning Harris

Atlanta Lyric Theatre is presenting the musical “The Full Monty,” with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Terrence McNally, directed by Alan Kilpatrick, running through Feb. 28.

Based on the 1997 British film, this musical version opened on Broadway in June of 2000, where I had the good fortune to see it, and it had a most respectable run of around two years.

“The Full Monty” is the musical play that tries to be R-rated, but it’s just too darn good-hearted, sweet, and fun; so it proudly stays a very enjoyable PG-13.

In 1998, best friends Jerry (Jeff Juday) and Dave (Nick Caruso) find themselves unemployed steelworkers in Buffalo, NY, and they have at least four pals in the same situation. Jerry is behind in child support payments to his ex-wife Pam (Lisa Manuli) for his young son Nathan (Matt Alea), and Dave is not thrilled that his wife Georgie (Jamie Wood Katz) is now the sole breadwinner in their house.

Jerry, Dave and their similarly out-of-work friends Malcolm (J. Koby Parker) and Ethan (Haden Rider) lament their woebegone status as “Scrap.”

Meanwhile, “It’s a Woman’s World” for Georgie and her gal pals; they have a ball attending a performance of a traveling Chippendales show. Dave and Jerry spy on their wives’ night out and are nonplussed at the women’s enthusiasm for the good-looking hunks in the show, and especially the money that the professional guys earn.
It isn’t long before Jerry, Dave, Malcolm, Ethan, “Horse” (Eric Moore), and Harold (Matt Lewis) decide that they should give this stripping-for-money thing a go (I mean, how hard can it be?), and they plan on a gala night in which the home-town boys could earn a ton of money.

Their ace in the hole is their decision that they can out-do the pros by going “the full monty”; that is, taking it all off, no g-strings.

They know nothing about show business, but a guardian angel in the form of a true done-it-all showbiz pro named Jeanette (Jackie Prucha) appears and agrees to coach them and play piano for them.

(On Broadway I was lucky enough to see the late Kathleen Freeman, who had played in films, TV, and stage for over 50 years, starting with “Singing in the Rain.” I was blessed to have a nice chat with her.) Let me quickly say that Ms. Prucha is marvelous in the role; and Ms. Freeman would have applauded.

There are some wonderful subplots that I haven’t space to mention here; but I’ll say that young Nathan, an old soul though still a child, has some lovely moments with his dad Jerry; kudos to Mr. Alea and Mr. Juday. Mr. Parker’s Malcolm, with his lunging yet touching awkwardness, shines. He also has a moving bromance moment with Ethan (“You Walk With Me”). There’s a nice chemistry between Harold and his wife Vicki (Marci Millard), who turns out not to be so materialistic as Harold thought.

This is a big, brassy show (fine orchestra conducted by Brandt Blocker; music direction by Paul Tate) that is sassy, funny, and sentimental (in the best way) with uniformly fine performances by Jessica Miesel, Kandice Arrington, Fenner Eaddy, Barbara Macko, Matthew Morris, Adam Sechelski, Alison Brannon, and those already mentioned.

The pace is just a hair slow, particularly in Act I. “Les Miz” is a three-hour show; “The Full Monty” should not be. The choreography is by Karen Hebert.

Okay, I know you want to know: Do the guys “Let It Go” all the way in the final scene? You’ll have to go to find out! Atlanta Lyric is getting big audiences these days. They’ll make you smile with “The Full Monty.”

For tickets and information, visit atlantalyric.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.