Monday, July 14, 2014

The Full Monty

Book by:  Terrance McNally

Music & Lyrics:  David Yazbek

Company:  Theatre Aspen

Venue:  The Hurst Theatre, 470 Rio Grande Place, Aspen CO, 81611

Running Time:  2 hours 45 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)

Date of Performance:  Saturday, July 12, 2014

Theatre Aspen has an ambitious summer schedule; there are three shows running simultaneously in July, The Full Monty among them.  You might think the pace could dilute the quality, but you would be wrong.  The Full Monty is a first rate, fun, sexy, and raucous musical powerhouse.

For those who have seen neither the 1997 film nor the Broadway musical, The Full Monty is essentially a male strip show with a message.  The musical moves the story from England to Buffalo NY, where six unemployed steelworkers are desperately seeking both employment and dignity.  When the bank forecloses, the child support is in arrears, and the job outlook is bleak, desperate men will take desperate measures.  They will even strip for cash to pay the bills.

The Full Monty gives women and couples permission to gawk, leer, and cheer for the "regular guys" who will give them what they want:  the FULL Monty.  No teasing, no winking, no false modesty, but the full frontal fun that doesn't require a trip to a sleazy strip club.  Judging from the audience reaction, everyone was taking full advantage of the opportunity to have some of that forbidden fun.

Terrance McNally's book rises above the sexy subject matter, if only slightly, to reinforce some important family values.  The message here is that there is dignity in being or becoming the best father and husband possible.  Grace, courage, and ingenuity trump the shame and embarrassment of showing your "goods" to a thousand screaming fans.  It's a worthwhile message, but The Full Monty is really about having fun.  At that, it is a wild success.

It would be an understatement to say that the performers are very talented; their bios in the program are replete with Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theater, and film credits.  These are not your aspiring stars.  They are highly successful actors having a summer lark in the mountains.  
They've got the goods.

Take, for example, Tally Sessions, who plays Jerry Lukowski.  His Broadway credits include Big Fish and The House of Blue Leaves.  As the lead character for The Full Monty, he gets the chance to display not just his acting chops, but also his talent for singing and dancing.  He takes full advantage of the opportunity; he is unquestionably a true "triple threat."  His Jerry is sufficiently desperate, sufficiently pathetic, and, most importantly, a sufficiently devoted father.  Sessions brings all the dimensions of Lukowski's character into sharp focus, and injects a mischievous sense of fun into it in the process.

Of course, Sessions is not the only talent on the Theatre Aspen stage.  The show starts with a bawdy, brassy strip show put on by Richard Jarrett ("Keno" Walsh).  I've seen 3-4 productions of The Full Monty, but Jarrett's "warm up" act is by far the best I've ever seen.  In fact, "warm up" doesn't do it justice.  He heats up the crowd to a fever pitch.  Dane Agostinis (Dave Bukatinsky) is marvelous; he exudes masculinity and fragility in equal measure.  Where the others have "six packs," Agostinis has a twelve pack on display.  As he says, "who wants to see THIS dance?"  

The answer, of course, is we all do.  Agostinis represents all of us, the regular guys and gals who do our best to hide our flaws from the world.  We want to see him dance because that gives the rest of us hope that we could do the same.  He overcomes his fear of laughter and humiliation, and in the process, helps all of us with our fears.

The musicians are excellent, but the mix is sometimes a little too heavy; the lyrics can jumble at times.  That said, though, The Full Monty, a la Theatre Aspen, is a high energy hoot.  The production values are top shelf, the talent is amazing, and the venue is spectacular.  If you are looking for a summer mountain getaway, get your tickets.  It's the best show in town, and maybe the best musical in Colorado right now.

Hurst Theatre, Theatre Aspen.


Parking can be difficult, but there is a public garage at the Visitor Center on Rio Grande.  The theater is in Rio Grande Park, about a 5 minute walk from the parking garage.  The theater is the tent-like structure just past the skate park.

If you have time, spend a few minutes (or longer) at the John Denver Sanctuary, adjacent to the theater.  It's a beautiful and fitting memorial to the man and his music.  Lyrics to some of his most famous songs are etched into stones in the Song Garden.

This show closes on August 9, 2014.  

This show is suitable for mature teenagers; but it is not recommended for children under 12. 

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  

Aspen is a foodie paradise.  However, even in the summer, reservations are recommended at the best restaurants.  Since I'm not a foodie, I won't make a recommendation for fine dining in Aspen.  Rather, I will just give you a link or two to help you get started if you're into fine dining.

Forbes Travel Guide

Food and Wine

Taster's Pizza, Aspen.
Much more to my simple tastes was Taster's Pizza, 455 Rio Grande Place, conveniently located at near the parking garage for Theatre Aspen.  Pizza, calzones, pasta, and salads, fast and at a reasonable price.  It's NOT for 
foodies.  It's for the rest of us.

Photo Credits: Theatre Aspen

Creative Team:

Director/Choreographer:  Mark Martino

Musical Direction:  Eric Alsford

Scenic Design/Lighting:  Paul Black  

Sound Design:  David Thomas  :  

Production Manager:  Vernon Willet

Costumer:  Nicole M. Harrison


David Dyer:  Conductor, Keyboards

Nicole Patrick:  Drums, Percussion

Scott Wasserman:  Abelton Programmer


Georgie Bukatinsky:  Nancy Anderson

Buddy "Keno" Walsh/Ensemble:  Richard Jarrett

Reg Willoughby/Ensemble:  Ed Foran

Marty/Ton Giordano/Ensemble:  John Caliendo

Jerry Lukowski:  Tally Sessions

Dave Bukatinsky:  Dane Agositinis

Malcolm McGregor:  Ben Liebert

Ethan Girard:  Spencer Plachy

Nathan Lukowski:  Carter Graham

Susan Hershey/Molly/Ensemble:  Amber Carson

Joanie Lish/Ensemble:  Kyra Wharton

Estelle Genovese/Ensemble:  Elise Kinnon

Pam Lukowski:  Erica Aubrey

Teddy Slaughter/Ensemble:  Todd Fenstermaker

Harold Nichols:  James Ludwig

Vicki Nichols:  Michele Ragusa

Jeanette Burmesiter:  Mary Stout

Noah "Horse" T. Simmons:  Randy Donaldson

Dolores/Ensemble:  Bailey Frankenberg

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