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The Big Tease 

by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & ould you lay yourself (and all your imperfections) bare for neighbors and co-workers to see? Maybe not. But if you thought you were going to make money doing it -- and if you were out of a job, your bank account was empty, and you were in danger of losing the people you love most -- then would you go the Full Monty?





You would if you knew it would get the kind of reception it's getting at Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater (through July 14).





The music and performances are so delightful for so much of CdA's The Full Monty that by the time the finale arrived, there was a real we're-all-in-this-together, thanks-for-lighting-up-our-lives kind of feeling in the room, making the curtain call a genuine celebration. We'd acknowledged that we're sexual beings without violating any decorum, and now a thousand people were standing up and applauding what a good time we'd just had.





The Full Monty isn't so much erotic -- well, maybe it's not not erotic -- but mostly it's full of bits of naughty fun. Wobbly bits. Sure, David Yazbek's music and lyrics in his Broadway musical of 2000 touch on topics like desperation and love and self-acceptance. And that's fine. But what ticket buyers really want to know is: Is the glass of this North Idaho Monty half-full or ... all-the-way full? For the record, in the grand finale, six guys are naked up there onstage the same way Roger Maris hit 61 home runs -- naked with an asterisk.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & ight at the outset, we get a taste of what we came for. A party girl does an emcee intro, and suddenly onstage there's a guy in a suit doing eye-popping things with an umbrella. And with his belt. And with the pants he just ripped off and tossed aside. It's Jonathan Rau (nephew of John Travolta and one of the stars of last season's Bus Stop at Interplayers) doing a dance routine that delivers the goods so well, it'll make jaws drop and other parts not drop. By the time Rau was on all fours, crawling toward the audience, wearing nothing but a G-string, a couple of gray-haired ladies near me were shrieking.





Playing a professional stripper, Rau shows the ideal toward which our working-class schlubs must aspire. They fall short, of course, because they fall into recognizable types: the handsome leading man, the fat-guy sidekick, the former middle manager (also laid off) who's trying to keep up appearances, the suicidal dweeb, the o vides a pattern of accomplished dancers pulling off the difficult trick of making it appear that they don't know how to dance when they really do. Mark Fitzgerald Weekes, for example, convincingly combined funky-chicken moves with a gawky hip in "Big Black Man"; as the dweeb, Christian Duhamel supposedly threw out his neck every time he attempted a pelvic thrust, even though we'd seen him gliding across dance floors in CdA's last show, Thoroughly Modern Millie. And then there was the irony of having assistant choreographer Andrew Start appear as an audition hopeful who couldn't strip well enough even to join this sad-sack bunch. (His pants tended to get stuck around his ankles.)





Start choreographed "Michael Jordan's Ball," a spectacular number that takes off when these non-dancers figure out that cavorting onstage doesn't have to be any different than playing at Hoopfest. Leaping and no-look passing an imaginary basketball, weaving in and out of an ever-tighter figure-eight, synchronizing their knee dips and swirls, freezing suddenly in "mid-air" for an especially cool flying effect, Start's dancing sextet redoubled an already energetic show's energy just before the first-act curtain. They showed us the potential for dance and exuberance in themselves, in all of us.





In the basketball number, Dane Stokinger -- lanky, athletic, pulsing with energy -- takes center court. Playing Jerry, the out-of-work divorced dad who's late with the child support -- and who first devises the idea of Stripping for Dollars -- Stokinger has the frenetic energy of a desperate guy who'll play every angle. His voice may falter on the high notes, but in encouraging his son and his mates even as he's trying to buck up himself, his acting's solid.





Playing the fat-guy sidekick, Danny Stiles displays his character's overeating and self-pity without overdoing the sentimental appeals; his tummy-jiggling, self-mocking dance "moves" are a scream. As the sidekick's wife (who nonetheless has a healthy appreciation for beefcake whenever it's on display), Laura Sable gang-leads a raucous girls-gossiping-in-the-men's-room number, "It's a Woman's World." Steven Dahlke's 11-piece band provides a jazzy overture and some hard-to-rehearse synchronized accents during the Michael Jordan fantasy sequence.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he CdA Full Monty, however, is a crowd-pleasing show with some weaknesses: There's a lame joke about running into walls that instead of being endlessly repeated should have been cut altogether; three sentimental numbers work too hard at arousing sympathy for the characters; the CdA sound system features its usual feedback explosions and can't-hear-what-they're-saying fades; and Welch should have trimmed about 15 minutes out of this two-and-three-quarter-hour-long show.





The momentum slows after intermission, mostly because nearly every one of Yazbek's second-act songs repeats something we already know about these characters: the trooper playing the piano (Ellen Travolta) sure is one tough old broad who's been around the show-business block; Jerry really loves his son; the men are really nervous (and under-rehearsed) before their big pseudo-Chippendales night; and the wives are going to stand by their men, even if their guys insist on showing off their shortcomings. The musical's book, by Terrence McNally (who wrote Love! Valour! Compassion!), predictably adds some male-male attraction in this testosterone-heavy show -- those heterosexuals are everywhere these days! -- but the added romance seems forced, perfunctory. As a result, too much of Act Two feels like a holding pattern deliberately lengthened to increase the will they/won't they suspense of the concluding strip-o-rama.





But then delay is all in the nature of a Big Tease. The Full Monty has its fleshly appeals, but McNally squeezes in some of the heavier stuff while we're waiting for the finale: Are we truly ready to humble ourselves for the sake of the ones we love? Are we willing to go all-out to make our marriages and parenting work? There's more than one way to "go all the way."

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