by Renee Westbrook
Special To The Record July 28, 2005 4:45 AM
As a movie and a stage property, “The Full Monty” remains best known for its stripping males. In reality, the story involves men revealing their feelings as much as their bodies.
“It’s about stripping your emotional baggage,” said Scott Viets, who directs the current Sierra Repertory Theatre production. The Terrence McNally-David Yazbek musical runs through Sept. 11.
While the setting has been changed from the film’s England to Buffalo, N.Y., “The Full Monty” remains the story of six men looking for economic and personal redemption. Unemployed and desperate for cash, the buddies form a striptease act. The journey proves taxing to their male egos.
Jerry (Chris Warren Gilbert) is behind in his child-support payments and trying to maintain custody of his son, Nathan. The chubby Dave (Freddy Geils) has to come to terms with not only an empty bank account but a negative body image. That was no less true for the actor himself, particularly given the fact the role requires exposing all in an intimate, 202-seat venue.
“To be honest, it was a little tough for me to think about it,” Geils said. “But throughout the rehearsal process, it became more apparently clear that it was going to be easier than I ever thought.”
Thanks to McNally’s script and Yazbek’s music, by the time the men bare all, “everybody in that theater is rooting for us,” he added.
It helps, too, that the men are drawn in warm, broad terms.
“I found that this was a guy who represents a whole lot of things that I recognize,” Gilbert said. “Not only in myself, but in the contemporary American male.”
Yazbek’s score propels the action. Under the musical direction of Mark Seiver, the tunes feature bawdy but honest humor and cover adult topics such as suicide and self-esteem.
“What I tried to do was keep the singers as true to the score as possible,” Seiver said. “Which is a very raw and rock ’n’ roll pop sound. I didn’t want anything to sound too pretty, because it just wouldn’t fit the bill.”
Viets noted that while “The Full Monty” opened this month to slow sales, ticket orders have picked up.
“This is a word-of-mouth show where people (say), ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s not about nudity,’ ” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to tell people.”