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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Full Monty’ funny, G-string rated show

The musical version of “The Full Monty” opened with a pseudo-Chippendales strip number – yet the whoops and shrieks from the audience were anything but pseudo.

The women in the crowd were raucous in their enthusiasm for that number, and they stayed loud and happy for the entire show. I haven’t seen that much estrogen-fueled gusto since a certain, ahem, “puppetry” show came through town a few years ago.

The truth is, this show earned that kind of enthusiasm, and not just for cheap thrills. “The Full Monty” is a funny, well-acted, well-sung and surprisingly tuneful version of the rude and lovable ‘90s British film of the same name, about unemployed steelworkers who try to pick up some much-needed cash by putting together their own male strip show.

Yes, the whole thing may come as somewhat of a shock to a musical theater audience that is more accustomed to “The Sound of Music” (a show which gets an affectionate reference in this show’s dialogue). There are plenty of bare butts and men prancing around in G-strings. The dialogue is R-rated. One entire song, “Big Ass Rock,” is an extended exploration of good ways to help a buddy commit suicide (bashing him in the head with a “big ass rock” is idea No. 1.)

Yet those familiar with the movie should know what they’re getting into. It’s a faithful rendition of that movie’s story and sensibility, although transported from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, N.Y. Yet it’s not a show about sex, or even about nudity. It’s more like one of those sports movies in which a ragtag team of losers comes together to win the big game.

To me, the big surprise was the quality of the music. Composer and lyricist David Yazbek has put together a terrific, fun-to-listen to score, with elements of rock, pop, soul and good old-fashioned show tunes (“Jeanette’s Showbiz Number”). He’s constantly inserting sonic surprises into his songs; listen for the “Magnificent Seven” theme in “Man” and the sarcastic hints of “You’ve Got a Friend” in “Big Ass Rock.”

It helps that this show is exceedingly well-sung and well-performed by a professional ensemble cast under the direction of Roger Welch. The show centers on those six dancin’ steelworkers. All six men – Dane Stokinger, Danny Stiles, Christian Duhamel, Robby French, Mark Fitzgerald Weekes and Stu Cabe – are hilarious in their comic scenes (often involving G-string anxiety) and are fine singers and dancers. The standouts are Stokinger as the cynical Jerry and Stiles as the morose Dave, which is exactly as it should be, since their characters are central to the plot.

Once again, the true quality of the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre is evident in the supporting roles. Here, the list begins with Ellen Travolta absolutely devouring the role of Jeanette, the jaded showbiz veteran who helps the boys whip their act into shape. Then there’s Laura Sable, Callie McKinney Cabe and Kelly Eviston Quinnett, who add spice as the boys’ long-suffering wives. I must also mention Jonathan Rau, who kicked the show off to a high-energy (and mostly bare) start as the male stripper Buddy (Keno) Walsh.

The quality is also evident in the production values, which are increasingly approaching those of a national road tour. For instance, an entire car is wheeled onto the set during the scene in which poor Malcolm (Duhamel) attempts to commit carbon monoxide poisoning. During the big finale, the stage is draped with Mylar strips, and then a huge “Full Monty” sign flashes in the back.

Now, about that final scene. The entire show builds up to the question: Will they go “the full Monty” or not? So it’s imperative from a dramatic perspective that the show must deliver, so to speak, the goods.

Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that director Welch employs some theatrical sleight-of-hand to satisfy the whoopers and shriekers in the audience without, you know, giving too much away.

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