April 21, 2013
Viva Communications and Atlantis Productions have merged to form one company, Viva-Atlantis Theatricals, which aims to bring high quality theater productions featuring Filipino artists both locally and abroad. "The Full Monty" is its maiden production. On its line-up this year will be "Tarzan" and "The Addams Family." I was confused at first because "Piaf," which we saw last month, is by Atlantis Productions alone. It turns out that Atlantis will still produce a line-up of its own including a re-run of "Rock of Ages" and the horror-musical "Carrie." All in all, this will be more exciting theater for all of us!
"The Full Monty" started as a critically-acclaimed and sleeper international hit British movie (directed by Peter Cattaneo and written by Simon Beaufoy) in 1997 about six unemployed blokes who planned to stage a strip show to make big money the easy way. This musical theater version, with a book by Terrence McNally and score by David Yazbek, premiered in 2000, transplants the setting from Sheffield, England to Buffalo, New York. As with the film, we follow the story of two best friends, Jerry Lukowski (divorced, battling for child custody) and Dave Butatinsky (married but very insecure), trying desperately to cope with miserable unemployed life after having their steel mill closed down.
Seeing how the womenfolk enjoy the local Chippendales-type strip show, Jerry has the wild idea of setting up their own strip show to earn a quick big buck. The buddies gather together a group of desperate guys, Harold Nichols (their previous supervisor), Malcolm (a shy mama's boy security guard), Horse (an older black guy laid off from McDonalds) and Ethan (no real talent but physically well-endowed anyway) to dance with them. As their main selling point, Jerry boasts that their show will feature "the full monty." Will the guys be able to pull off their daring brave show, as well as figure out their own individual personal insecurities and family problems?
Mark Bautista was unexpectedly excellent as the lead character Jerry. He has really come a long way from that boy who supposedly stowed away on a cargo ship to get to Manila to try his luck in a singing contest won by Sarah Geronimo many years back. I was impressed when I saw him as Crisostomo Ibarra in "Noli Me Tangere the Musical" (My Review). But this was a new high point in his career as he had grown very confident as an actor, delivering his lines in clear English with a stable New York accent to boot. His range as singer has also improved. His falsetto in the dramatic song "Breeze on the River" is very good.
Jamie Wilson had been relegated to smaller supporting roles in several shows lately, like "Rock of Ages" or "Piaf". But being the second lead Dave reminded us how good a singer he is and how funny he is, unafraid to laugh and make fun of himself. He easily steals all the scenes he is in because his sense of self-depreciating humor is just so infectious. Even a line as simple as "They're holding hands." was delivered with such precise comic timing to maximal LOL results!
Marco Sison, the fair 80s balladeer (of "My Love Will See You Through" fame) who has not been heard of lately, would not really be the guy you'd think of first to play Horse. He shows in his featured number "Big Black Man" that his golden voice is still there, and shows off his multi-style dancing chops as well. He looked a bit tentative and unsure in his other scenes though, occasionally losing his supposed black man swagger.
Arnell Ignacio strangely chose played the proud Harold in a very subdued manner. He unexpectedly seemed shy and lacked stage presence for some odd reason. His singing voice was just okay, but not too impressive when heard together with Jamie Wilson in their duet "Rule My World." Arnell also looked ill at ease with Ima Castro who played his pampered wife Vicki. Castro though simply sang the hell out our of her song "Life With Harold", as well as the reprise of "Rule My World" in a duet with Ciara Sotto, who played Dave's wife Georgie.
OJ Mariano did not exactly look like a scrawny pigeon-chested friendless loser, but he manages to convince us that he is. His highlight song was "You Walk With Me" where he sings about his mother. Nino Alejandro also showcased his crystal clear vocals when he joined OJ in this tender song. Alejandro otherwise had the thankless role of Ethan, who had to fall on his back repeatedly while attempting a "Singin' In The Rain" wall climb dance move.
Ms. Jay Glorioso ruled the spotlight in her featured song "Jeannette's Showbiz Number": She played their frank and funny pianist Jeannette with comic glee. She was right in her element here.
My wife and I enjoyed this show very much, so much more than I was expecting. There was hardly a dull moment throughout the two acts. Both the comedy and dramatic highlights were all on perfect point. The material in itself was really so good, very well-written. This show is not only about an the climactic "full monty" strip show at the end, which I know is the main point of interest for many. It is actually an interesting examination into the male psyche, as well as an insightful treatise on the relationship of husbands and wives. The lyrics of those songs were so witty, so real and so affecting, on top of having very clever rhymes.
For me, the best songs of the show were:
1. " A Big-Ass Rock": A comedy number where Jerry and Dave tell Malcolm how they could help him commit suicide.
2. "Rule My World": In two beds on opposite sides of the stage, Dave worries about his big belly, while Howard is worried about his wife's spending.
3. "The Goods": As the guys actually try stripping for the first time, they see visions of ladies finding them physically inadequate.
4. "Let It Go": The Hot Metal guys show the audience what they got in this hilarious finale number! The critical lighting effects in the crucial "full monty" moment were excellently executed.
Congratulations to the director Ms. Chari Arespacochaga, along with the entire cast and crew of Viva-Atlantis Theatricals for their successful debut production! Looking forward to the rest of their planned shows lined up for this year.
"The Full Monty" will run at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza in Makati from April 19 to May 5. For details call Atlantis Productions at 892-7078 or Ticketworld at 8919999.