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Warts and All 

The Civic's The Full Monty isn’t perfect — but that’s kind of the point.

click to enlarge YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak

Adapted and Americanized from the 1997 film, the stage version of The Full Monty wraps up the Spokane Civic Theatre’s “Imagination” season.

The story, transplanted to Buffalo, N.Y., roughly follows its cinematic counterpart. A group of scruffy, unemployed mill workers, led by Jerry Lukowski (played here by Robby French), decides to form a striptease act in a last-ditch attempt to prove themselves and solve their respective problems.

For Jerry, that means holding onto his son, Nathan (a precocious Joseph Stafford). For Dave Bukatinsky (David Gigler), it means getting over the shame of his tubby physique. And so on down the line.

How this musical or director Troy Nickerson’s stock rendition relates to the season’s theme of imagination is questionable, but there are a few higher notes on which to close. The pop-oriented score has a rare mix of meaning and melody, the characters are rounded and relatable, and the production’s mild raunch is just enough to keep theatergoers in that charged state between laughter and discomfort.

For all its gratuitous pelvic thrusts and profanity, though, The Full Monty also entertains serious questions. What does society expect of men? Of women? And what happens when we fall short of those ideals — not necessarily on society’s terms, but in the eyes of those important to us?

By touching on those matters, the play is actually about something greater: the glorious imperfection of normalcy. Uninspiring jobs. Lackluster parenting. Poor decisions. Beer bellies, bald spots, and butt pimples.

Except for a few minor roles that don’t suit their actors, the Civic has assembled an enviable cast. As the father clumsily but earnestly trying to right his wrongs, French is spot-on — even if he does overdo the chummy, microphone-whumping backslaps.

In his role as Dave, Gigler’s anguish over his extra weight is as credible as his longstanding friendship with Jerry. Todd Kehne, who plays Malcolm MacGregor, maintains the fine balance of comic relief and character development that his role requires. “You Walk With Me,” his moving second-act duet with Ethan Girard (Daniel McKeever), is something to savor.

Max Daniels as “Horse” brings with him an outstanding vocal performance (“Big Black Man” had the audience howling), but his opening-night lines and dance steps became more halting as the evening progressed. The opposite was true for Mary Starkey. Her crudely funny Jeanette Burmeister began unassumingly and later threatened to steal the show from the lads.

Opening night had its share of hiccups. The cast was plagued by mic drop-outs, and their collective dancing shoes still need to be broken in. A few harmonies didn’t harmonize. But these miscues will likely be straightened out over the show’s run.

And besides, for moral support we need look no further than the play itself: sometimes there’s more enjoyment to be found in flaws than in perfection.

The Full Monty • Performances (mature audiences only) run Thurs, Fri, Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 2:00pm through June 19 • Spokane Civic Theater • 1020 N. Howard St. • $28 (student and senior discounts available) • ticketswest.com • (800) 325-SEAT

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