The Full Monty, Prince of Wales theatre, London

Hats (and the rest) off for a fired-up, feel-fabulous show
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The Independent Culture

Hats off to this wonderful Broadway musical version of The Full Monty. Well, hats off and perhaps a little more clothing beside. This is a thong to remember, all right.

Hats off to this wonderful Broadway musical version of The Full Monty. Well, hats off and perhaps a little more clothing beside. This is a thong to remember, all right.

It certainly isn't easy to take a pre-existing celluloid hit and make a stage musical of the same material that manages (a) to keep absolute faith with the original spirit, (b) to switch continent in the process (the film's unemployed Sheffield steel workers have become their equivalents in Buffalo, New York), and (c) to improve significantly on the source.

The poster says, "The most successful British movie of all time has become a feel-great Broadway musical". I'm afraid I must insert a correction: for "feel-great", please read "feel-fabulous".

When did you last attend a musical in the West End where a fat, unemployed, self-despising steel worker (delightful John Ellison Conlee) sings a rueful love-song to his beer belly, while on the other half of the revolve, his white-collar equivalent sings an equally rueful love song to the wife whom he thinks only loves him because he can keep her in the luxuries to which he thinks she thinks she is entitled?

And when did you last see a musical where a fortysomething black guy sang and danced an anxious song about his penis size? This wonderfully good-humoured show tells you more wise things about the "crisis of masculinity" than many a tight-arsed play in the subsidised sector.

The outstanding contribution of the evening is David Yazbek's double-whammy as the composer/lyricist. The show has all the oomph and blue-collar balls of West Side Story but it dispenses with the high-falutin' idiom Bernstein felt obliged to inflict on the love story. The Full Monty is raunchy and real all the way down to the posing pouch. I saw Jack O'Brien's production on Broadway and all I can say is that there must be something in the air in London. On this side of the pond, a great production has turned into a quite outstanding one.

But it's not just when it's all fired-up and feisty that the show is terrific. It has lovely, gentle moments, like the sequence when Jarrod Emick's superb Jerry, the guy who is fighting to retain custody, sings a song to his sleeping son: "Every time I see your face/ It feels strange and familiar/ Like a map of better place". Such profound, confused parental feeling in such succinct poetry.

If by this time next year this show hasn't won all the Best Musical awards, I promise that I'll do my fabled Dance of the Seven Veils outside the theatre.

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