by Julie Wallis twitter.com/nicenic63
The Full Monty The Musical at The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham
The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham is host to The Full Monty the musical until Saturday 1st September. But this time, it’s a little different. This well known story, about a group of unemployed steelworkers who decide to form their own strip troupe, for one night only, has unbelievably been a favourite for over 20 years now.
This version at the Old Joint Stock Theatre is set in Buffalo, New York instead of Sheffield, England as it is based on the Broadway Musical rather than the film, and also has an original soundtrack, which sadly means no more Donna Summer waiting for her Hot Stuff.
Instead, we were treated to some beautiful new songs, all delivered with a charm and grace that is hard to find and definitely works really well in the small space of this theatre.
The opening scene shows Jerry (Alex Wadham), Dave (Oliver Britten), Malcolm (Duncan Burt) and Ethan (Jack Ballard) collecting their unemployment cheques and leads to the first song Scrap. I perhaps should mention that Jerry is the name of the character we knew as Gaz. I did say it is a little different, but fear not, the essence is true to the original, with a lot of lines unchanged from the original 1997 movie of the same name.
Jerry played by Alex Wadham is still as charming as ever, and his ex wife Pam as played by Auriol Hatcher is still smart, strong and sassy. I loved the casting for this production, with characters that we all know so well it was reassuring to find the American counterparts are equally as lovable.
I won’t lie, I’ve always had a favourite character, Dave, as played by Oliver Britten and he was just as adorable as always. The big fella with the big heart who feels he is letting his wife down is still the same gentle giant as always.
Meanwhile Dave’s wife, Georgie, as played by Sam Carlyle is just as sweet and considerate a wife as any man could wish for. Horse as played by Aaron Mwale is a convincing older man, even though Aaron is young, and still gets a few giggles when he whips his trousers off to reveal his long johns! Ethan as played by Jack Ballard still spends far too long trying, and failing to run up the wall. But he is also incredibly endearing, and I think that’s part of the appeal of The Full Monty, all the characters are both likeable and believable, even in this Americanised version.
Previous boss of this ragtag troupe of strippers is Harold (Rhys Owen), and really his only fault was, he seems so young to be the ex boss, but he still has enough heart to care about his men, even when his wife Vicky (Jenefer Trapp) is planning a two week holiday to Porto Rico.
The final stripper is Malcolm (Duncan Burt) who Jerry and Dave rescue from a fume filled car, he still lives with his mum but upon joining Hot Metal he finds his love. That’s the thing with this play, it still has that magic, that feelgood factor, even with Americans, even moved to another country, even without You Can Leave Your Hat On, by Tom Jones or You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate, this is still an amazing show.
Then we have Nathan, the son of Jerry, Nath (James Blake-Butler) believes in his dad. James does make for an uncannily convincing boy, he really did capture the innocence and trust of a little boy who idolises his dad. Finally, Brad Welwyn who plays so many roles, he is a Chippendale, he is a policeman, and he is a very versatile chap with a few cheeky laughs.
This new original soundtrack is great, the songs are fresh but still have a familiarity, and the performances are all absolutely perfect. There are a lot of striking singers in this show. It’s a Woman’s World sang by Georgie, Big Black Man, sang by Horse, You Rule My World sang by Dave and Harold and Michael Jordan’s Ball sang by Jerry are all noteworthy songs sung by terrific singers. I found some of the songs to be quite emotionally moving too.
The staging, as always, for the Old Joint Stock Theatre is simple and minimal, just a length of scaffolding, but it makes for so many different places, it’s the toilets where the boys eavesdrop on their womenfolk in the first scene, it then becomes the stage for the Chippendales, the factory where the boys rehearse and finally it’s the stage where they get their kit off.
Do they do the full monty for us? Well yes, of course, but they have been told You Can Leave Your Hat On, as there is nothing on display to embarrass or offend, and some clever lighting means everyone leaves with their dignity intact.
This is a fabulously fresh version of a classic and if you are in any doubts as to whether this is for you, two final things, one is this is also raising funds for Ballboys, a cancer charity for men and secondly, last night had a huge standing ovation.
Check out The Full Monty the Musical at the Old Joint Stock until Saturday 1st September. Book tickets here: oldjointstock.co.uk/whats-on/the-full-monty
This isn’t a sponsored post. Julie saw The Full Monty the Musical as press for #BrumHour thanks to the Old Joint Stock.
When Julie is not blogging theatre for #BrumHour she can be found on her own blog at redandgoldweb.wordpress.com