Sunday, November 15, 2009

Balagan men go all the way!

Shout it from the rooftops: The guys in Balagan Theatre's production of The Full Monty do indeed do the full Monty. Balagan's show, directed by Jake Groshong, is a fun and funny evening of entertainment.

I want to spread the word on the FULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY thing because I've already been scolded by a friend for not letting her know about it in big, red, capital letters. After expressing her interest in the subject matter, my friend said, "I am looking forward to seeing how they can stage that show in such a little place. And the music is SO GOOD!" Right on the latter. On the former, it's not polite to use the word "little" in a show featuring FULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY. As for the staging, the key to the space is a big turntable that rotates about one of Balagan's basement-theatre pillars. Props to set designer Jen Butler for the concept and tech whiz Ed Cook III for making it work. (Cook, by the way, is so damn good he's been snapped up by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to build sets in Ashland.)

There are the brave gents above at right, in a Balagan photo by M. Elizabeth Eller. From left to right: Butch Stevenson (Horse), Mark Abel (Harold), Austin Garrison (Malcolm), Evan Woltz (Dave), Jon Lutyens (Jerry), and Josh Whitling (Ethan). They are not exactly the Temptations, but the guys can bring it and sing it. Egging them on are the women, at left also in a photo by Eller. Left to right: Tracy Leigh (Vicky), Danielle Barnum (Pam), Christine Nelson (Ensemble), Alyssa Keene (Georgie), Hannah Schnabel (Ensemble), and Wonder Russell (Ensemble). They ARE Temptations, as you can see, but musically they are like Vandellas.

The story is familiar and the music is wonderful. Favorite numbers for Weisenheimer were Stevenson's rendition of "Big Black Man", a wonderfully touching version of "You Walk With Me" by Garrison and Whitling, the hilarious "Big Ass Rock", a touching song about murder and suicide done by Lutyens, Woltz, and Garrison, and "The Goods" by the whole darn cast.

There were a couple of familiar faces in the show. Yes, FACES. Woltz was recently in a fine production of Gutenberg! The Musical! at ArtsWest, as was pianist Kimberly Dare. Woltz is a pretty funny dude. And let's give a well-deserved shout-out for Bobby Temple, the choreographer who kept everyone stepping in the same direction! It was no small task to wedge all of the action into a small space, but it worked marvelously.

Kudos to Groshong and the cast for a great show, and to the guys for having the balls to go Full Monty. The show runs at Balagan through Nov. 28. So go!

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