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‘The Full Monty’ 

'THE FULL MONTY': Now showing at the Rep.
  • 'THE FULL MONTY': Now showing at the Rep.

Big crowds tell the success of The Rep’s season-ending production, “The Full Monty,” a musical comedy based on the British film about unemployed factory workers who turn to stripping for cash.

The setting moves from England to bleak Buffalo, N.Y., in the musical, but the story’s the same. A girls’ night out to see Chippendale-style dancers inspires desperate laid-off union mill workers to form their own regular-guy dance troupe with a difference. They’ll climax their show with “the full monty,” or total nudity.

Though the show is full of genital jokes and other broad sexual humor, the undercurrent of gender role reversal is strong enough to provoke a little thinking. Would men be uncomfortable as a show about women strippers ground to the climactic final question? And would the audience feel the same — relieved, disappointed, whatever — about a female “full monty” that failed to starkly deliver thanks to a lighting trick? (Here, the full monty is far less revealing than the thongs in which the men have already cavorted.)

So much for sociology. This is a show played for laughs — some of them of the dark sort. There’s a suicidal character living with his mother. There’s no great humor in a divorced couple with a husband in arrears on child support who drags his kid (Charlie Askew) to burlesque rehearsals. But the music is easy on the ear. The regular guys are pretty good dancers, even Dave (Christopher Sapienza), the porky, funny and sympathy-inducing best friend to the lead character, Jerry, played likeably by Peter James Zielinski. Jerome Lucas Harmann — playing an aging black character known as, heh heh, Horse — stops the show with a solo funky chicken. Turns out he is a racial stereotype except in one key dimension. Generally, it’s not a showcase for singular voices. The ensemble is the thing. But SuEllen Estey was winning as Jeanette, a wise-cracking and sozzled veteran musician who provides the dance group’s piano accompaniment.

Mike Nichols’ sets were as slick as ever, though the frequent visible shuffling of scenery was a small distraction. The show continues through July 1.

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