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Bare emotions and more
'The Full Monty' musical prepares for New York
By Paul Clinton
SAN DIEGO (CNN) -- All is calm at the Old Globe Theatre, very calm on this June 1 opening night of the musical version of "The Full Monty." Cast and crew are going through some final rundowns. Lights are adjusted, microphones tested. Check, check. No one has those opening-night jitters.
Nor should they; this production, which began as a test to see if it could play in Broadway, is heading to the Great White Way after finishing up here on July 2.
"The Full Monty," based on the hit 1997 film about desperate British steelworkers who get to the bare essentials in a gambit to raise money, is set to open at the New York's Eugene O'Neill Theater on Oct. 26, with previews beginning Sept. 26.
No one could be happier about that than Lindsay Law, the former president of Fox Searchlight Studio who green-lighted the film version of "The Full Monty." He quit his job at that studio to shepherd this production, and even managed to persuade Fox to help bankroll the project here and in New York.
It's not a bad bet for Fox. The film, which cost $3.5 million to make, took in $256 million worldwide.
An audience pleaser
Early reactions from theatergoers are promising. "One often hears the audience leaving and saying they actually like it even better than the movie, which they loved," Law says.
Thomas Hall also is betting big on this "Monty." He gave up his 22-year job as the Old Globe's producing director to co-produce the Broadway version of "Monty" along with Law.
"After a week of previews, we have broken every box office record this theater's ever had for 65 years," says Hall.
"The Full Monty" offers ripe material for a musical comedy, Law says. "I think audiences crave real entertainment," he says. "They want to laugh. Luckily, we give them some tears and then triumph. It's a pretty good package."
A package made better by four-time Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally ("Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Ragtime"), who agreed to write the book for the stage "Monty."
His first order of business: move the setting of the play from Northern England to Buffalo, New York.
"I said if they wanted to keep the British setting in Northern England, then I will bow out, because that's not my lingo," McNally says.
Unknowns fill the cast
The cast includes a few Broadway veterans such as Annie Golden and Kathleen Freeman; the rest of the ensemble is composed of unknowns.
The real rookie is composer David Yazbek. A former writer for "Late Night With David Letterman," he's released two CDs, and is best known for writing the song "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" Until recently, the only time he'd ever been in a Broadway theater was through the front door.
Now, he's written 16 original songs for "Monty," and isn't a bit bothered that he's so new to stage. "There are all these rules about what songs in a musical are supposed to do." says Yazbek, "As far as I'm concerned, songs in musicals are supposed to be great songs. I don't know if I've achieved that, but that's what I was going for."
Do they bare all?
Patrick Wilson, who plays Gary 'Gaz' Schofield, the role made famous by Robert Carlyle, thinks he's in a great musical.
"It's an amazingly liberating thing to be able ... to take your clothes off and not worry about it, because it's not about your body, it's not anything like that," Wilson says. "(I)t's nice to go out there and have people screaming regardless of whether you look like a Chippendale (male dancer) or not."
Did his audition call for him to bare more than his emotions? "Yes, we did have to strip -- but (only) down to our underwear," he says. "It would be horrible if we had to go all the way and have them go -- 'Ahh, no thank you.'"
The play's message is worth some clothes-shedding, says Andre De Shields, who joins Wilson on the stage. "One of the lessons that we take away from doing 'The Full Monty' is that we really don't have to be anybody other than who we are to achieve personal success," he says.
Naturally, their perspectives begs the big question: Do they really go "the full monty?"
"We're up there dancing," says De Shields. "But whether we take all our clothes off or not is up to ticket buyers to find out, and for everybody else to guess."
Review: 'The Full Monty' delivers some belly laughs
Old Globe Theatre
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