Early in the David Yazbeck/Terrence McNally musical a laid-off steel worker urges his mates to show “who really wears the pants in the family.”
So they decide to take them off, together, at a Buffalo strip-joint.
Out of work for 18 months, they’re sacks of couch potatoes. Their wives ogle sleek Chippendale strippers who cavort like Playboy bunnies at the club.
Will the men follow through? Can the musical un-fracture an entire Noah’s Ark of various relationships?
You bet your sweet monty.
The musical’s based on a British film (1997), which offers a grimmer take on unemployment and social inequality. The Yazbeck/McNally version guts the political thrust in favor of pop psychology and titillation. In many ways it’s just an extended tease.
It’s also long — clocks in at 2:45 — and the second act tries to touch every base in the American League.
Monty world premiered at the Old Globe in 2000. Jack O’Brien’s staging was so imaginative, and the ending such a surprise, that the cardboard characters and cheap appeals weren’t evident until the ride home.
Directed by Manny Fernandes, the New Village Arts version often captures the spirit of the original. But the night I caught the show, everything from Michael Mizerany’s splashy dance numbers to the pace of scenes, even exchanges of dialogue, needed tightening.
And a more invested performance by Grant Rosen. He played Jerry Lukowski, leader of the blue collar, “Hot Metal” strippers, at half-mast. Was his mic on the blink? Or would he rather be elsewhere?
The full-throated efforts of Michael Parrott, Melissa Fernandes, Debra Wanger, and Justin Jorgensen — along with Richard Johnson’s torchy opening dance — made Rosen’s casual stroll stand out all the more.
Parrott’s Dave Bukatinsky stands out. He’s one of the few who understand the deep shame and dreariness of being jobless in Buffalo. Also because he creates humor from his hurt.
Justin Jorgensen, a new face, excels as Malcolm MacGregor, the “mama’s boy” (most roles are stereotypes). In the middle of the slow second act, the musical has a funeral scene. It’s a pace-dragger that may have been written just for the song, “You Walk With Me.” Sung by MacGregor, it stops the show.
Sean Fanning’s appropriately rusty, smoke-smeared set looks like a run-down alley in Buffalo, until he flips a corner wall and it’s a different locale (chalk up another one for this inventive designer).
The sounds and costumes are acceptable, as is Justin Gray’s taped soundtrack after a while. The only problem with the latter, the tempos are fixed, so the singers must keep up. Several of the vocals needed sharper coordination.
Luke Olsen’s lighting, useful throughout, handles the “Let It Go,” Gypsy Rose Lee Effect at the end with aplomb.