The Full Monty, now playing in London's West End, is an updated version of the 1997 movie of the same name.
In case you've forgotten the plot (and only remember The Ending), the story is about six down and out working class unemployed men, on the dole, in post-industrial Sheffield during the Thatcher years. They all need money to pay the bills, so they resort to stripping to earn extra money. And the new cast is definitely not slow about stripping it all off!
The difference between this new Full Monty and the previously-staged versions (first on Broadway in 2000 and then the West End in 2002) is that, even though the setting still takes place in the late eighties, the plot has been modernized to reflect society today.
The men include Gaz (a very good and confident Kenny Doughty), a young dad who did time in prison and is trying to reconnect with his young son, much to the dismay and disapproval of his ex-wife, who she says that he will never mount to anything good. There is Lomper (a charming Craig Gazey), who is not very confident, yet decides to give stripping a go, and Gerard (Simon Rouse), who has been out of work for six months yet who has been keeping up appearances by not telling his wife, who still goes out and spends money. Then there's the black character, Horse (Sidney Cole), named for reasons that will at the end become clear; Guy (Kieran O'Brien), a good looking macho type who is comfortable enough to let the guys know about his sexual preferences; and Dave (Roger Morlidge), a very large man with no sex drive, which does not matter to his loving wife, Jean (Rachel Lumberg).
Forming their male strip group is easy; they find many guys willing to strip who they need the money, but the men have setbacks in trying to come up with the money to hire out a venue for their first show. They also get arrested while illegally rehearsing in a steel factory. Meanwhile, as they rehearse, each guy slowly becomes more comfortable shedding his clothes and showing his moves. They even practice a routine, in a hilarious bit, while in a queue to get their dole money. It wouldn't be called The Full Monty if the men didn't take it all off, and so at the very end of the show they do, leaving a smile on the audiences faces, and — on the night I saw it — a 10-minute standing ovation.
Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the screenplay on which the movie was based, wrote this stage version, his first time writing for the stage. He has written a show that is perfect for the stage, and the original music by Steve Parry captures the mood of the time and the mood of the men. The set is a steel factory that morphes into various locations: the front of the house where his ex-wife and son live (with her new partner), the space where the men rehearse, and where they perform at the end. And then there are the special effects (by Nick Porter) that will make you hold your breathe, including an attempted hanging suicide by one of the men, and mini explosions that take place in the factory. Credit goes to Director Daniel Evans for engineering all of this into what will probably be this spring's best show.
Unfortunately, The Full Monty, playing at the Noel Coward Theatre, has posted a closing sign on the door, so it's last performance will be on March 29. Go it as soon as possible!