If there was ever the wrong man at the wrong time, it’s composer/lyricist David Yazbek. He hit Broadway in 2001 with his adaption of The Full Monty. Reviews and business were great and a lot of Tony awards seemed in the offing. But then Mel Brooks opened The Producers …
In 2005, Yazbek provided music and lyrics for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but did so in the same season as Spamalot and Light in the Piazza.
The year 2011 looked to be his with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown starring Patti LuPone. Can’t miss, right? The Book of Mormon begs to differ.
Our story does have a happy ending. This year, Yazbek’s The Band’s Visit swept the Tonys, winning 10 “Bests,” including for score, lyrics and musical.
But to my mind, the honors were 18 years late. The Producers may be fun, but there’s no way it’s a better written show than The Full Monty… and I offer this first-rate Pittsburgh CLO production as proof.
Set in an economically depressed Buffalo, Full Monty is about a bunch of laid-off steel workers so strapped for cash they put on a male strip show promising the “full monty” (i.e. remove all the clothing.)
The joke of the piece is that the six men are supposedly the last six you’d ever want to see naked; too fat, old, bald, skinny, etc. But thanks to a terrifically fun book by Terrence McNally, you fall in love with them immediately and remain firmly on their side through the whole evening. McNally doesn’t neglect the distaff side either, and the various wives and ex-wives are every bit as endearing.
The whole thing is fueled by Yazbek’s propulsive, high-energy score filling every corner of the story with color, intensity and an insane amount of showbiz razzle dazzle.
Barry Ivan directs and choreographs, giving this CLO production a perfectly swift pace, and he drives the big emotional beats. On opening night, maybe the production was a little sketchy toward the end, but by the time you read this, that problem will have absolutely righted itself.
This powerhouse cast’s singing and dancing ignite the Benedum stage. I gleefully mention our six heroes: Andy Kelso, Matt Dewberry, Kevin Massey, John Hickok, Randy Donaldson and Dan DeLuca. And I point out the great work of Natalie Charle Ellis, Sarah Uriarte Berry and, especially, a side-splitting Anita Gillette.
The Full Monty continues through July 15. Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, 237 Seventh St., Downtown. 412-456-6666 or pittsburghclo.org