‘Full Monty’ bares it all
Mirava M. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - In a surprising move, Viva Entertainment Inc. has stepped into the Broadway fray, forming an alliance with Atlantis Productions to form Viva Atlantis Theatricals Inc. This is good news for fans of theater across the country, as Atlantis Productions has been relentlessly hammering out more and more musicals. Quantity is not the only thing it has consistently delivered, though. In keeping with a plan to bring more award-winning productions to the Philippines, the team-up between Viva and Atlantis will bring us Disney’s Tarzan and The Addams Family later this year.

For now, Viva Atlantis Theatricals has decided to go with something completely different. Its first production, The Full Monty, directed by the extremely talented Chari Arespacochaga, has effectively been seared into the minds of its audiences and will remain there for a very long time.

If you’ve seen the 1997 movie it was based on, you will know why. It revolves around a group of men who are pushed to the brink of desperation after being laid off from their jobs in a town crippled by unemployment. Their last resort is to perform a strip show, one that is specifically meant to trump the Chippendales’ in every possible way. True enough, hilarity ensues.

The musical is an Americanized version of the Best Picture Oscar Nominee (yes), taking place in Buffalo, New York rather than Sheffield, England. But the main conflicts and themes remain the same, as the main character, Jerry Lukowski (Mark Bautista) struggles to pay child support for his son Nathan (Ethan Baranda Paras).

His ragtag team of misfits includes Dave Bukatinsky (Jamie Wilson), Malcolm MacGregor (OJ Mariano), Harold Nichols (Arnell Ignacio), Noah “Horse” Simmons (Marco Sison) and Ethan Girard (Nino Alejandro)  all jobless and/or miserable with their relationships. Insecurity abounds, stemming mostly from the fact that their female significant others are working and they’re stuck during chores. But with phrases like “being a man” and “woman’s work” thrown around constantly, an unwitting gender war erupts under the guise of “We just want to help!”

Still, the play is surprisingly modern and upfront with its handling of gender roles, and luckily, it seems the issue has arrived at a stalemate by the end. One can breathe a sigh of relief for any woman who’s initially undermined in the play, but comes out in full force and owning her femininity.

In an enjoyable role reversal, it is the men who are insecure about their bodies  a real-life issue that is rarely delved into, but tackled full-force in the powerful number . Meanwhile, the female characters are far from demonized in this case. They are equally as funny, strong and supportive of their men. Georgie Bukatinsky (Ciara Sotto), Pam Lukowski (Sitti Navarro), crowd favorite Vicki Nichols (Ima Castro) and Jeanette Burmeister (Jay Glorioso)  a pianist who takes the men under her wing  own their sexualities and aren’t punished for it.

The show is rife with black comedy, hilarious one-liners and some heartwarming moments tucked in between all the laughs. While being unrepentantly raunchy, there’s class and tenderness in the way The Full Monty handles everyone’s relationships, which end up being some of the most memorable parts of the whole thing.

Each character gets an equal opportunity to strut their stuff. Every moment and conversation purposely leads up to the last scene  the boys’ electric performance  which does not disappoint, thanks to the inspired choreography and truly funny chemistry that the cast shares. What makes the musical so harmonious is that there is no true bad guy around. Everyone grows with the help of others, new (and unexpected) romances blossom, and a Chippendales performer happens to be the most sagely person around.

The cast’s confidence is contagious  it has to be, because without it, everything would fall flat. Even while talking unemployment and death, The Full Monty is strangely but still appropriately overzealous, to the point that you let your guard down and are consistently surprised by all the fun that it brings. By the end of the performance, you are just as ready to take your frustrations off  I mean, let them go, because The Full Monty is determined to get everyone down to their barest. And, hey, it actually works.

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