April 24, 2009

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Concord does the Full Monty
Plight of the out-of-work man
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Wayland Bunnell is directing The Full Monty for Community Players of Concord.

Yes, that’s a play in which guys get naked, an interesting choice for community theater, but Bunnell sees far past that aspect of the show.

“My primary interest in The Full Monty is in the story itself,” he said. It deals with men’s issues, which is rare for musicals, he said.

The central dilemma is that a father will lose any custody of his son if he can’t come up with child support. He and his friends have been laid off from the steel mills, yet wives are working.

“It’s really not about stripping at all ... but that’s kind of the factor that brings people to the theater,” Bunnell said.

The stage version is set in Buffalo, which went through a major recession in the 1990s and saw thousands of people move out as steel mills closed and the economy collapsed. “It’s very current in terms of the present economy,” Bunnell said.

The Full Monty was turned into a 2001 Broadway musical from the 1997 British version, Bunnell said. Bunnell saw one of the national touring performances in Boston and was amazed at how much of the story remains.

This is the first time amateurs stage it in New Hampshire, according to the company.

“I’ve seen every professional production within 100 miles within the last two years,” Bunnell said. He also said, “I’ve never seen a musical that energizes an audience like this one does.”

The Players might have an advantage in that most professional theaters hire younger actors. Yet many characters in The Full Monty are midlife. Bunnell’s cast includes people from age 12 to 76 (they don’t all strip).

Concord’s production was planned for 2008, but the Players’ studio roof collapsed under snow before auditions were held. 

“In the intervening 12 months, the economy went to hell,” Bunnell said. Economic relevance wasn’t originally a reason the Players chose The Full Monty.

It was the men’s issues — things like what it means to be a real man or not, and employment status.

“This is absolutely a musical that men should go see. It’s hard to get a lot of men to the theater,” Bunnell said. But the story is something guys can relate to.

The stripping comes in, by the way, when Jerry Lukowski (played by Kevin Roberge, a Manchester area actor) finds out how much his ex-wife and her friends are paying to see a Chippendales show.

The musical spends more time than the film on the women’s struggle to keep afloat while the men are out of work, Bunnell said. In that way, women can also identify.

Bunnell said he surprisingly didn’t have trouble filling the roles of Lukowski and his friends. It was the largest turnout he’s had at auditions, with almost 50 people for 19 roles, he said.

“The community … is really interested in the show,” Bunnell said.

Most of the 2008 production staff stayed on. Music direction is by Joel Mercier. Sue Sartorelli choreographs. Set design is by Jim Webber, costumes by Gay Bean and Kim Miracle and lights are by Wally Pineault. There’s a live seven-piece pit band.

This is the Community Players of Concord’s 81st season — it’s one of the oldest community theater groups in the country, Bunnell said.


If you go
What: The Full Monty, presented by Community Players of Concord
When: Thursday, April 30, through Saturday, May 2, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m.
Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St. in Concord
Cost: $12 to $15
Contact: www.communityplayersofconcord.org, 224-4905
Note: Recommended for mature audiences.

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