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CCMT 55th season starts with a romp. The hats drop for The Full Monty.



Contra Costa Music Theatre is hosting an appealing strip show that is a perfect way to start out their 55th season at the Lesher Center for the Arts. THE FULL MONTY is a big, fun, raunchy evening for ladies, but the whole family can easily enjoy this romp. The film of the same name was a very successful hit on screens more than 18 years ago. Terrence McNally wrote the book, from Simon Beaufoy original film script, and David Yazdek created the music first in 2000 and then a rival in 2009. It won a Drama Desk award for best musical after a run on the West End. The story based on the film changed a bit, it is now set in Buffalo, N.Y., the steel mill closes and leaves its workers with no income. Directed by the talented Christina Lazo she brings heart and soul to a male based story and adds sparkle to this company with the marvelous talent she cast for this musical.

The women of the cast open the story as we become part of a Male strip show from the get go. The wives who are the breadwinners treat themselves to a females only show but still support their men. The wives sing “It’s a Woman's World” from the men's rest room, a perfect way writer McNally works with sexual identity roles in this shinning musical. The men of the cast headed by Noel Anthony as the unemployed dad, Jerry Lukowski, trying to keep his son, sings “Man” with his steel mill buddy Dave, played marvelously by R. Martin Newton. Anthony is a strong lead, who at times is upstaged by the other talent in the male company. Sam Leeper, and LaMont Ridgell all have bright show stopping moments. Newton who is cast as the out of shape best buddy is heartwarming in the role and his comic timing during his fun stripper mode is skilled.

The story remains the same as the film when it comes to the out-of-work steelworkers decision to earn some money creatively by producing a one-night-only strip show suggesting that the “everyman” look will sell out the box office. The men, awkward, lumpy, old, some with bellies and some missing them, are not Chippendale candidates. Their first dance rehearsal is staged well by Lazo who also choreographed the show. The clumsy gents are not ready as dancers and no where near the notion of taking it all off. Lazo’s direction does not compromise the story of manhood questions as both in the comic timing and drama or the feeling of lose. The men support each other, Sam Leeper portrays the sweet Malcolm, who is introduced to the story as Jerry and Dave find him close to death in suicide attempt. A full size car is brought on stage, prop master Debbie Shelley uses a real car to create the suicide scene. It is very impressive, and the duet “Big-Ass Rock” with the three men is excellent, dark yet compassionate for the topic of ending one's life.

This production includes some show stopping performances, including local favorite LaMont Ridgell, as Horse. His show stopping performance “Big Black Man” is worth the price of the ticket, his timing, dance and powerhouse voice is flawless. Ridgell brightens the first act and the show really comes to life as he enters the audition scene. His passion wins him a spot in the strip line, no matter his age. Zoe Conner who plays the old wise rehearsal accompanist Jeanette, also is skilled and funny in “Jeanette Showbiz Number” and is a delight to watch on stage as she schools the male cast. In the second act Sam Lepper’s performance as Malcolm is warm and uplifting in his solo “You Walk with Me” after he confronts his mom's passing and his sexuality with his dance partner Ethan played with the right emotion by Brendon North. The musical goes deeper than the movie exploring sexuality and a very gentle gay theme among two of the men. Ethan also scores a part in the strip line showing off his more than average size “Monty”.

The show does belong to the male cast, but the women are just as strong. Jill Gould as Dave’s high-spirited wife Georgie shows class with her talent, and Taylor Bartolucci as Harold's wife Vicki, has the finesse and a delightful voice. Bartolucci, sings how much she loves her man in “Life With Harold”, she as the rest of the cast all have great voices. Harold played by Matt Davis is brought in by the guys to help them with the moves, and was one of their former bosses back at the mill. Davis and Bartotucci have great timing as they both deal with unemployment issues as the bank slowly repossesses their home. Jerry’s 12 year old son Nathan is skillfully played by J.D. Cerruti and follows his dad through most of the almost 3 hour show. The battle for Nathan is the heart of the story and Jerry’s need to raise money to support his son or lose him.

Music director Matt Smart has a talented cast to work with and his 12 member orchestra, who kept the show moving and the blue strip numbers are the best. The set designed by Kelly James Tighe is a very industrial working-class factory look that easily turns to reveal nightclubs and back stage settings. Tighe also created the closing scene highlight that is always a surprise when you see the show. The lighting is important for this musical since it needs to transform to nightclubs to dingy factory inter city shadows. Designed by Joe D’Emilio he is spot on for that famous closing number. Costumes designed by Hope Birdwell set the tone for the bar scenes and are industrial for the men. The many wigs for the women and some of the men are the work of Kerry Rider-Kuhn -- The guys under competition from the real chippendales - need to up their game, in the last minutes to fill their club, they assure the audience they will do the Full Monty. To the delight of their wives and fans - they may or may not reveal their Monty’s. The men's final dance is the gleaming climax to this heartwarming musical. The story is fun and will not offend. - You will stand and cheer for the MONTY. It runs through Nov 7th at the Lesher Center for the Arts, I highly recommend you see the hats drop.

Contra Costa Musical Theatre Presents


MUSIC & LYRICS BY David Yazbek BOOK BY Terrence McNally

Directed by Christina Lazo, Music Director Matt Smart

Oct 9th to November 7, 2015

at the Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek Ca.

Tickets and more info click here >>

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