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It’s always full house at The Full Monty - FUNFARE by Ricardo F. Lo


Nobody must have noticed it but Funfare wrongly identified Resigned Senate President Nene Pimentel as "Pepe Pimentel" in the other day’s issue. But an unidentified reader did call my attention to it by texting me the following message:

It’s final: Pepe Pimentel will replace Nene Pimentel as Senate President. The 11 Senators will cast their votes (on two choices) – kuwarta o kahon?

* * *

"You shouldn’t miss it. Or else you’ll miss half of your life!"

Exactly two months ago today, L.A.-based journalist Janet R. Nepales, better half of Ruben Nepales, reminded me that as soon as we got to New York for the series of interviews with the cast and creative talents of two Disney flicks, the recently-shown The Emperor’s New Groove, with Eartha Kitt voicing for the female anti-heroine lead, and the soon-to-be-shown 102 Dalmatians again topbilling Glenn Close (more on her in an extensive interview in a later issue), I should sneak out to watch The Full Monty which, until now, is attracting SRO crowds at the Eugene O’Neill Theater on Broadway.

"It’s so hilarious and so funny," Janet repeated during that long distance call, "your trip to New York won’t be complete without watching it. You won’t regret it."

Just to make sure that I watch that "hilarious and funny" musical, Janet bought two tickets, one for me and one for my friend Raoul Tidalgo (entertainment editor and columnist of the New York-based The Filipino Reporter, who had seen it but wouldn’t mind seeing it again – and again). "I’ve seen it," assured Janet who left the two tickets at the theater’s box office for us to retrieve, "and my last trip to New York was well worth it."

So as soon as Glenn Close, who’s very warm and self-effacing in person, answered the last of my 30-plus questions during the one-on-one, I rushed back to the lobby of Regency Hotel where Raoul, still groggy after closing his section at The Filipino Reporter offices at the Empire State Building, picked me up. After grabbing a tuna sandwich, split into two, along the way, we jumped into the F-train, looking forward to two hours of a "hilarious and funny" experience.

"It’s good," said Raoul as we fell into a queue in front of the Eugene O’Neill Theater. "Very good."

It better be, I told myself (barely recovered from the jet lag after a 22-hour trip from Manila). It better be!

It was – absolutely hilarious and funny, I mean.

Back in 1997 when I saw the movie version of The Full Monty, a British production which cost only $3.5 million to make but which went on to gross more than $256 million worldwide and to be nominated for the Oscar Best Picture that year, I admit that I wasn’t too impressed. The plot revolves around a group of working-class guys who’ve seen better days, driven by unemployment to desperation that prompts them to put together a strip act to make money.

The musical is something else, although it’s not just about taking off all the clothes.

In the playbill, co-producer Lindsay Law said, "People think that the full monty means taking off all your clothes. It does not mean taking off all your clothes. The full monty is a term derived from General Bernard Law Montgomery who, even on a day of battle, would order a full breakfast of kippers and eggs and toast and juice and sausage before going into battle.

"The full monty means going all the way, the full nine yards, the whole kit and caboodle. Anyone can do a full monty. A quarter-back who can’t find the right receiver and who is running down the field and scoring a touchdown is going full monty. It does not mean taking off all your clothes. However, if you’re a stripper, it’s going the full monty."

And just like the curious crowds that flocked to watch The Full Monty the movie in theaters around the world, the SRO crowd at the Eugene O’Neill Theater that November night probably cared not so much how the movie was transformed into a musical ("The transition from screen to stage has buried most of the movie’s charms," according to a Time review) but how daring the six actors playing the unemployed guys would be in the finale scene showing them doing, that’s it, the full monty.

While the movie was spiced up with ’70s music, the musical was livened up by a more contemporary music by David Yazbek, a young singer-songwriter in the pop-rock vein. The setting was changed from Sheffield (England) to Buffalo (New York). Unlike the movie, the musical was filled with penis jokes, in keeping no doubt with its format and thrust.

So what happened at the much-awaited finale scene? Yes, the six actors did do the full monty, a scene so cleverly executed with lighting tricks that even if the actor seemed to have gone all the way, the audience couldn’t see anything in full view (but was it "the real thing" dangling in silhouette between the legs of one actor?).

The audience erupted into a wild applause, some giving the six actors a standing ovation, while others clamoring for "More, more, more!" as if the actors were performing not in a play but as actual stripteasers.

It was indeed hilarious and funny, and Janet and Raoul were right. It was worth the rush from Regency Hotel to Broadway and having only half a tuna sandwich for dinner. Just like what Janet had told me, I advise you to watch The Full Monty when you go to New York. You shouldn’t miss it.

Last week, Ricky Davao told me during a birthday dinner for Ronald Constantino that, while shooting American Adobo (directed by Laurice Guillen) in New York in October last year, he also sneaked out to watch The Full Monty and he enjoyed it, too; enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he’s now thinking of mounting a local version (maybe with the likes of Johnny Delgado, Tirso Cruz III and Christopher de Leon).

Would Ricky and company do the full monty?

"Why not?" smiled Ricky. "Somebody in New York told me, though, that the Broadway actors had their ‘things’ enhanced in the finale scene by wearing ‘fake’ ones, just like what Mark Wahlberg did in the movie Boogie Nights."

If they did, the full-house audiences of The Full Monty probably didn’t notice it or didn’t care at all.

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