Arts & Culture

REVIEW: Nerves of steel: 'Full Monty' full of fun at Theatre Cedar Rapids

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The broke, unemployed men of Hot Metal strip down to their worst fears, imaging the reaction of the women of Buffalo, N.Y., if the guys go through with their plan to raise a ton of money by stripping onstage. The lead-up to their one-night show lays bare their vulnerabilities as well as sensibilities in “The Full Monty,” onstage at Theatre Cedar Rapids through Feb. 10.
Studio Reserved photo The broke, unemployed men of Hot Metal strip down to their worst fears, imaging the reaction of the women of Buffalo, N.Y., if the guys go through with their plan to raise a ton of money by stripping onstage. The lead-up to their one-night show lays bare their vulnerabilities as well as sensibilities in “The Full Monty,” onstage at Theatre Cedar Rapids through Feb. 10.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Yes, it’s cold outside, but it’s hot inside Theatre Cedar Rapids with “The Full Monty” center stage through Feb. 10.

Leave the kids at home and whoop it up with your girlfriends, boyfriends and/or partners/spouses. It’s a date night however you define that, as six extremely brave souls bare their all to some rockin’ music.

If you do accidentally bring your kids, you may want to hustle them into the Linge Lounge before the jazzy overture ends and the hot and jazzy overtures begin onstage. You’ll know exactly what you’re in for in the first five minutes of the show.

It’s titillating and even a tad shocking at times. The invited family and friends viewing Thursday’s final un-dress rehearsal were pretty reserved in the beginning, with just a small group of women off to one side voicing their appreciation.

But once Omarr Hatcher stepped into the spotlight as Noah “Horse” T. Simmons, the gloves and top hats came off and the hootin’ and hollerin’ began.

The guys better get used to all the cheers, whistles, claps, stomps and standing ovations, because they’re going to hear them every night. The best part is that by the end of the show, while it appears the crowd is cheering for the red satin G-strings, they’re really cheering for the moxie and confidence it takes to pull it all off.

It’s one thing to be part of an anonymous touring show that plays to an audience full of strangers in a different city every night. It’s a completely different ballgame when the eyes that are on you belong to your parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, friends, co-workers, dentist and minister. (Your doctor has already seen more than an audience ever will.)

So the ovations are as much for the actors’ daring as for their dancing.

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Who are these guys? They’re six down-on-their-luck dudes from Buffalo, N.Y. who have been laid off from their jobs at the steel mill. The exception is Horse, a retiree and a widower who brings his own lucky charms to the mix.

Instigator Jerry (Dustin Davis) has fallen so far behind in child support that he could lose joint custody of his son, Nathan (Jesse Flaherty). When he and best friend Dave (DJ Kohl) discover the women of the town are tossing down big bucks to see Chippendales dancers writhe down to their G-strings, Jerry hatches a plan to take that one step further by stripping down to the “full monty,” British slang for baring it all. He figures he and his buddies can make enough money in one night to dig themselves out of their financial holes.

Now he just has to convince Dave and four other men to climb onboard.

The auditions are hilarious, and their rehearsals even more hilarious, thanks not only to their fears and foibles but to Marcia Hughes who plays their salty 70-something rehearsal pianist and former showbiz maven. Hughes keeps the beat with sass and snark, and of course, tosses out some powerhouse vocals along the way.

Davis also belts his way through the music with equal parts bravado and angst, as his own insecurities bubble to the top and threaten to shut down the entire operation. Kohl sheds his recent Buddy the Elf role as he sheds his clothes and peels away the walls he’s built inside his marriage to Georgie (the always effervescent Sara Maslowski).

Joining them are Jake Stigers as factory boss Harold, hiding his unemployment from his wife (Tina Conroy) who fancies fine things; Bryan Mullen at Malcolm, a friendless soul who lives with his mother and is at the end of his rope; and Christopher Schubert as Ethan, short on brains but long on more desirable attributes.

Each one steps into solo spotlights with vigor, but no one revs up the crowd like Hatcher in “Big Black Man.” Memorable as the “squeaky cart guy” in Elf — proving how to make the most of a small role — he’s utterly alluring busting out his best moves for the ladies. And when you have the 13-year-old who played Billy Elliot with jaw-dropping moves at Theatre Cedar Rapids in 2017, you give Flaherty every opportunity to shine in the production numbers — just not in the final dance scenes.

Director Cavan Hallman, once part of an everyday-guys’ dance troupe in New Orleans, has crafted a deft and endearing show. All of the technical aspects show off plenty of muscle, too, from Derek Easton’s scenic and lighting design, to Erin Helm’s playful choreography and Noel VanDenBosch’s equally playful, eye-opening costumes. A special handful of dollar bills goes to music director Benjamin Schmidt and the top-flight instrumentalists in the orchestra pit.

This bawdy production is a laugh riot with a heart, igniting the best kind of January thaw that flows into February.

If You Go

• What: “The Full Monty”

• Where: Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids

• When: To Feb. 10; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday

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• Tickets: $22 to $42; TCR Box Office, (319) 366-8591 or Theatrecr.org/event/the-full-monty/2019-01-25/

• Advisory: Contains mature content, adult language and partial nudity

• Extra: ASL interpretation Feb. 9; contact Box Office for reserved section seating

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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