Way before Magic Mike hit the cinema, there was another film that started off the popular craze of men taking their kit off on film, but unlike Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum, the boys in the 1997 classic The Full Monty weren't toned and ripped in all the right places. Instead they were completely normal, lovable everyday guys, and cinematic audiences around the country fell completely in love with them. Now, the stage version of the cult film is hitting the Palace Theatre in Southend for one week only, but with more bang for your buck in the form of musical numbers and a few jazz hands thrown into the mix too.
The stage version follows the storyline of the original movie almost page for page, but the setting has changed significantly. Gone are the unemployed steel workers from Sheffield, and in come the boys from Buffalo, New York. So does this show work away from its usual home up north? Drew Seal, Chairman for the group Leigh Operatic and Dramatic Society, who are putting on the production seems to think so; 'I think that what made The Full Monty such a success was that although it is a quintessentially British film, the underlying theme of ordinary people having to do extraordinary things in order to cope with social and economic change has global appeal.'
'With the current economic crisis and highest rate of unemployment in the UK for over ten years, I think the story is even more poignant today. The story is more than this though, as the six guys work through their fears, self-esteem, anxiety issues (over everything from being overweight to child custody, bigotry to being gay), and they come to discover that not only are they stronger as a group, but that the strength they find in each other gives them the individual courage to face their demons and overcome them.'
Sounds like interesting stuff, but when you think of The Full Monty you automatically imagine oily men, stripping naked in front of a gaggle of screaming women, but director Sallie Warrington believes the show holds more messages than just the opportunity to see some prime cocktail sausage; 'When you say 'The Full Monty' most people expect just nudity, but there’s so much depth to the characters. What I missed from the movie is the actual desperateness of some of the men who have lost their jobs, their relationships with each other and their wives and families. I think there’s a lot more depth to the show than the original film.'
The film was also praised for its look at coming to terms with your sexuality, something which had never really been looked at before in a film about men working in a very masculine environment. The show tackles this issue, with the characters of Ethan and Malcom finding love for each other amongst the thongs and testosterone. Peter Brown, who's playing the part of 'very much in the closet' Malcom used a special trick to find his character; '[Malcom] doesn’t really know what his sexuality is so I kind of think about friends of mine in the past who have faced that question, and just look at the different sides to them. The beauty of the part is the audience, I think, kind of discover his choices as he does, so it’s a nice journey to go on as an actor.'
All this aside, we obviously want to know if we're going to be treated to a proper FULL monty live on stage, and it appears we will be. Although we might be excited, it seems some of the performers are slightly more apprehensive. 'I'm terrified,' says Richard Harrison who's playing Jerry in the show, the part made famous by Robert Carlyle in the original film. 'As we’re drawing closer to the show I find myself getting more and more anxious, but it’s a fun challenge and something you can look back on and think wow, I did that!'
However, the boys can find comfort in one thing - they're not alone in showing their private parts to the public; 'I'm not too nervous, yes, a few butterflies but I think I feel ok about it because I’m not alone, there’s safety in numbers,' explained David Shipman, Ethan in the production, 'There’s six of us working on this together so there’s a security in the fact that you’re all going through it together and don’t feel like you’re completely on your own.'
Paul Standen, who's playing the infamous Horse in the production summed up the actors' feelings with; 'I’ve just thought you gotta do one stupid thing before you die and I think this is it!'
So, girls, gays and the quietly curious, if you want to see the heartwarming tale of stripping, sexuality and ballroom dancing, told through the medium of toe tapping dance numbers and an incredible score by David Yazbek, then form an orderly queue at the theatre. You never know, you might just catch an eyeful.
The Full Monty takes place at The Palace Theatre, Southend-On-Sea between 24 and 27 October 2012. Performances are nightly at 7.30pm with matinees at 2.30pm on the Thursday and Saturday. Click here to book tickets or call 01702 351135. Hurry, as seating availability is now limited. The show contains strong language and nudity, and is not suitable for persons under 16 years of age.