Curtain rises on WICA’s ‘Full Monty’

On the WICA set of The Full Monty are

Directors at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts have never shied away from shows that pushed the envelope. But as rehearsals rev up for the screen-to-stage production of “The Full Monty,” the question on everyone’s mind is: How much “Monty” exactly will be revealed as the cast tackles the musical version of the 1997 movie.

The audience will find out the answer Friday, April 5 when the show opens at WICA. It runs through April 20 and show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. at Sunday matinees.

In this Americanized stage version adapted from the British film, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers, low on cash and prospects, decide to present a strip act at a local club after seeing their wives’ enthusiasm for a touring company of the Chippendales.

They decide that their show will be better than the scantily clad Chippendale dancers because they’ll show it all — the full Monty.

Behind the light-hearted premise is a story that explores how the stress of unemployment affects the men and their families. It also portrays their bouts with self-doubt, fears, self-consciousness and anxieties.

“It’s about feeling helpless and scared. It’s about people going through a transition and finding hope,” said director Elizabeth Herbert. “Everyone can relate to that.”

Herbert added that the show takes a look these tough subjects, but at the same time it is full of laughs and clever writing.

“It’s very funny,” Herbert said. “I have laughed so much more than I ever have before.”

The show will be distinct from the movie.

“Everything that we’re bringing to the play is new,” she said. “It was truly a collaborative effort.

The plot was moved from England to upstate New York, and the female characters got more emphasis.

“The women are stronger in this play,” she explained.

The set is simple and held in an industrial design. Ann Deacon and Tristan A.B. Steel created the set.

But back to the big question.

Just exactly how naked will the cast of actors — people that audiences might well encounter at the grocery store the next day — get?

“It could get awkward,” Herbert said with a laugh.

She is working on figuring out what theater trick to deploy to orchestrate the big reveal. In the movie, the actors skillfully cover up with a hat as they remove their final piece of clothing. Herbert said this would be challenging at WICA as the audience is close to the stage at the theater.

While Herbert is navigating the path of community theater appropriateness, her cast seems to have no problem with the task at hand.

“They are so free and uninhibited. The Monty men are amazing,” she said.

Leading the company of Herbert’s production are Ken Stephens, Ryan Saenz, Bob Atkinson, Tristan A.B. Steel, Fernando Duran and Cameron Gray.

And even if nudity does not shock audiences, the language may, Herbert warned.

Herbert said this is not a show for the family.

“The language is definitely blue,” she said. “If it’s not the nudity, some will be shocked by the language, but they are steel mill workers.”

That said, Herbert doesn’t think the show is too scandalous for Whidbey audiences.

“They’ve done this in the Bible Belt,” she said. “I would think we can handle it here.”

The Full Monty was adapted to stage by Terrence McNally and scored by David Yazbek.

To bring the musical to life, Herbert brought musical and dance experts on board. Musical direction is by Sheila Weidendorf, choreography by Chelsea Randall, Herbert’s daughter. Her sister Savannah is assisting with choreography.

The team has brought out the best in the cast, Herbert said.

“We have some solid voices,” she said.

The original Broadway production of “The Full Monty” was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2001, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Herbert said ticket presales have been beyond expectations. Tickets are moving fast. For tickets contact, 360-221-8268 or stop by the box at 565 Camano Ave., Langley.

Ticket prices range from $18 to $24.

“The Full Monty” is recommended for mature audiences due to strong language and nudity.