North Carolina Theatre performances are known for being incredibly well put together and very enjoyable and impressive to watch. The Full Monty, which opened on Saturday, February 27, at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, is all of these things – and a whole lot more. Who would have thought the Bible belt south would have had the guts to showcase a play about a bunch of down on their luck guys turned male strippers? Fortunately, the people of North Carolina Theatre were brave enough (and funny enough!) to pull off an incredibly risque show without a hitch.
Ira David Wood III (Harold Nichols) made Raleigh proud by holding his own amidst a cast that included the likes of Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner Sally Struthers and Broadway star Jarrod Emick. Not only was Wood’s performance right on par with theirs, but he also managed to shine his own star quite brightly. While some may have had doubts about what Wood would be willing to bare, viewers can rest assured that he was fearless. Seeing Wood parade around in a red thong and spew lines that could make a sailor blush is only one of the reasons that this show can absolutely not be missed.
Sally Struthers’ role as Jeanette Burmeister, perhaps the most looked forward to performance in North Carolina Theatre history, did not disappoint. Her covert entrance (she emerges from behind a piano) was not enough to quell the outburst of applause and excitement that ensued. Struthers seemed to catch the energy of the audience and hold on to it throughout the entire show. She never once stopped embodying her tawdry, chain smoking character, and the audience ate it up. During an impromptou interview with lead actor Emick (Jerry Lukowski), he laughed that Struthers was, “. . .tough to keep up with.” This is clearly evidenced by the high energy, don’t-want-to-miss-a-minute performance she gave. Emick himself was also incredibly enjoyable to watch and had the audience rooting for him from the moment he stepped on stage.
The supporting cast was also picture perfect. Joe Coots’ performance as Dave Bukatinsky, an overweight guy struggling to make his marriage and his new life as a stripper work, was particularly impressive. His rendition of “You Rule My World,” which he sang along with Wood, was one of the best moments of the show. Not to be outdone, Kingsley Leggs’ (Noah “Horse” T. Simmons) crooning of “Big Black Man” and his anxieties about the size of his manhood had the audience in stitches.
Most Full Monty viewers will probably have a hard time remembering the last time they laughed so hard or cared so much for fictional characters. This show is both hilarious and heartwarming – the last thing one would expect a play about strippers to be! The love that all the actors possessed for their characters and for the show itself was immediately and constantly evident, making it so that no viewer could possibly walk away dissatisfied.
The set, as is always true of North Carolina Theatre performances, was bold and provided the perfect, glitzy backdrop for the show to take place, and Raleigh Memorial Auditorium proves to be one of the best places to catch a play ; there is simply not a bad seat to be had! With the combined efforts of these two Raleigh dynamos and a simply perfect cast, The Full Monty is perhaps the most impressive season opener in years.
The show will run through Sunday, March 7 with 8 PM showings Tuesday, March 2 through Saturday, March 6, 2 PM matinees on Saturday, March 6 and Sunday, March 7, and a 7 PM showing on Sunday, March 7. Tickets can be obtained by visiting http://www.nctheatre.com or TicketMaster at http://www.ticketmaster.com.