Keegan Theatre's 'The Full Monty' is chock-full of fun

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Entertainment,Theater,Jolene Munch

It's rare that a screen to stage adaptation ever lives up to the original movie. Rarer still is a musical comedy that's genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. The Keegan Theatre's new production of "The Full Monty" somehow succeeds at delivering the cheeky, off-color humor established in the 1997 British flick, and husband and wife co-directors Mark A. and Susan Marie Rhea manage to bring on the laughs in the most unexpected and uproariously fun fashion.

And it's fashion -- or the lack thereof -- that's on tap here at the tiny Church Street theater. You're not going to have this much fun at the theater again all summer long, unless you really do see a handful of regular old neighborhood guys strutting their stuff onstage in the buff. Because that's the essence of David Yazbek and Terrence McNally's story -- when a handful of down-on-their-luck steelworkers are suddenly laid off, the most enterprising among them gets the idea to organize and stage a special one-night-only event. The stakes are high when the chips are down, and Jerry (Kurt Boehm) dreams up a crazy little scheme that just might pay off big time for his motley crew of blue collar "entertainers" -- if he can convince them to go "the full monty."

Completely revamped from the film and its indelible soundtrack, the script was gamely refurbished as a Broadway musical in 2000, and relocated from South Yorkshire in England to the 'burbs of Buffalo, N.Y. And while McNally scribed a copycat framework that otherwise sticks to the movie's plot, Yazbek's witty score is jam-packed with saucy showtunes and jocular lyrics that are downright howl-worthy.

Onstage
'The Full Monty'
» Where: The Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW
» When: Through Saturday
» Info: $35 to $40; 703-892-0202; keegantheatre.com

Of course it helps that the Rheas stacked their cast with a set of entirely believable, authentic actors. Every one of the six male leads are astonishingly well-suited to his role, from Boehm's energetic lead to John Loughney's bashful Malcolm. Boehm and his cohort Matthew Dewberry, whose self-aware Dave strikes just the right balance between sensitive and self-deprecating, are the vocal anchors.

Along with Loughney's distinctive tenor, they are joined by Michael Innocenti, Patrick Doneghy and Charlie Abel. Actresses Priscilla Cuellar and Rena Cherry Brown turn in side-splitting performances as Vicki and Jeanette, while Kari Ginsburg is quietly moving as Dave's loyal wife, Georgie.

Among other contributions that render this an unforgettable evening of theatre are Erin Nugent's costumes (or what's left of them), Ashleigh King's vibrant choreography, and the music direction and sound design from Keegan regular Jake Null. With its endearing sense of chutzpah and endless charm, the naked truth is that this production of "The Full Monty" is the best musical the Keegan Theatre has presented in years.

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Jolene Munch

The Washington Examiner