The much-awaited new production of The Full Monty has finally hit the stage of the Buxton Opera House and drew a packed audience for its opening night.
Billed by many as the perfect Girls’ Night Out, it had its obvious attractions for many in the audience but its themes of losing hope and self-respect remain as relevant to the modern day as when the original film came to the screen and provided a highly entertaining evening for all of those who attended.
Set in the depressed post-industrial era when Sheffield’s steel mills were closing it follows the fortunes of a group of ex-work colleagues who are all suffering from the loss of their previous jobs. Gaz (Danny Hatchard of Eastenders) is close to losing access to his son Nathan (Cass Dempsey) as he fails to keep up his maintenance payments to ex-wife Mandy (Laura Matthews); Gerald (Bill Ward of Emmerdale) has yet to break the news of his redundancy to wife Linda (Suzanne Proctor) who continues to max out the credit card; Dave (Neil Hurst of All Creatures Great and Small) is going through a body-image crisis that is seriously affecting his relations with partner Jean (Katy Dean); and Lomper (Nicholas Prasad) is so depressed he can’t even commit suicide properly.
A chance meeting outside the local club allows Gaz to realise that there is money to be made from a group of male strippers. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, his fellow workmates agree to follow the madcap scheme and recruit Horse (Ben Owukwu) – an ageing guy who is suffering from arthritis but can throw a few dance moves – and Guy (Jake Quickenden of Dancing on Ice) who has no choreographic talents but has other assets that could make him a big star.
The audience is then taken on the hilarious journey as the Chippendale wannabes attempt to learn their routine and build up the nerve to show off their talents. Will the men make it to the final stage and do the Full Monty? Go to the show and all will be revealed.
The Casting Director has done an excellent job. Not only has he attracted a host of faces familiar to the audience from their television roles but has assembled a cast that throws itself into the action with enthusiasm. Hatchard is excellent as he varies from the lary lad to a man unable to cope with his problems; the role of Guy fits the very likeable Quickenden like a glove; Ward is perfect as the former foreman who is keen that his students learn from his expertise as a dance teacher; and Hurst is able to draw empathy from the audience while allowing his natural cheerfulness and comic timing to come to the fore.
All of the cast contribute to a fabulous evening but special praise must be given to the young Dempsey whose performance belied his youth. He owned the stage and stole the heart of everyone watching. A young man with a big future in theatre it would seem.
The current production is very faithful to the original film and its story remains as fresh as ever as it provides a solid story even without its much-anticipated ending. There were many moments of laugh-out-loud humour as the excitement for the final scene built up and there was raucous encouragement as the guys strutted their stuff before the finale was greeted by a prolonged standing ovation.
Be warned guys – the last ten minutes can be very rowdy!! But make no mistake, this production will run and run. It is certainly no flash in the pan!!
The Full Monty continues at Buxton Opera House until September 30th when it begins its National Tour. For ticket information contact Buxtonoperahouse.org.uk