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Let’s just agree now: At this stage of the game, if you’re The Full Monty, you don’t get to make fun of Rent.
Because where once the latter long-running hit was a tiring symbol of its time and a too-easy shorthand swipe at unimaginative touring-house programming, now the former has eclipsed it utterly as—well, you see where I’m going here. The Full Monty, which has the (wrinkly) balls to sneer in passing at its older and much sturdier brother, is musical theater’s answer to that guy playing the accordion at the Woodley Park Metro station: He’s there to while away the afternoon and have a little fun exercising his own moderately pleasing talents, and if a few coins fall in his case, so much the better.
Which is to say that the only possible reason to stage a piece of third-rate bilge like The Full Monty these days is to give a few fun performers the chance to barrel through its handful of competent-enough set pieces while shaking down an audience for a little money to fund the rest of your season. With that in mind, why should anyone bother complaining too much about Terrence McNally’s book (appallingly lazy), Mark and Susan Rhea’s direction (somehow limp and unrestrained at once), or the production’s prodigious running time (roughly equivalent to the Peloponnesian Wars)?
Better to focus, instead, on what pleasures are available: the voices of the Keegan Theatre ensemble, which blend nicely; a few handsome solo and duet turns from solid singers like John Loughney and Priscilla Cuellar and Michael Innocenti, in numbers that remind you that composer David Yazbeck does in fact know how to craft a melody; smooth comedy-showcase moves from Patrick Doneghy as Horse, the rheumatic “Big Black Man” who youthens mysteriously over the course of the show. (Such is the power of fraternity amid adversity, one gathers.)
Oh, the plot? It’s available at various film-review websites, as The Full Monty (you may recall) was an early entrant in the ongoing movie-to-musicals derby. (At least Rent looked back to 19th-century opera for its inspiration.) Newsprint being an increasingly scarce commodity, and the story being the baldest sort of manipulative underdogs-show-their-mettle hooey, you don’t really expect anyone to rehash it here, do you?