WaterTower’s ‘Full Monty’ loses its pants and inhibitions, but only in Act 2

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

The cast of the Full Monty
LET IT GO | Average Joes reveal their Johnsons (sort of) in ‘The Full Monty.’

Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road.
Through Aug. 15. 972-450-6232.

Sexual stereotypes aren’t pretty — they can be downright insulting. Which they kind of are in The Full Monty. Yes, I’ll say it: It makes straight men look bad.

The script for the stage musical — which transplants the story from a British factory town to Buffalo, N.Y. — was written by gay playwright Terrence McNally, and frankly, most of the guys come off as cavemen. They make disparaging “fairy” comments about the ripped gay Chippendale (Christopher J. Deaton), traffic in racial clichés and put on mucho macho bravado about their own sexual prowess and manliness. (Doing housework is “woman’s work” in this construct.) What, is this set in 2010 or 1950?

Definitely the former, as the poor economy and unemployment fuels some ordinary Joes’ desperation to make quick money by stripping for the women of the town. Only they are all doughy. And middle-aged. And can’t dance.

The conceit of the show is basically ridiculous, although it has a whimsicality that carries it. At least, it carries the movie; Act 1 of the stage adaptation drags, without a really catchy song until “Big-Ass Rock” (which plays like a Carole King ballad from ’70s — only about suicide). There aren’t any big laughs until Pam Daugherty, as a boozy piano player, coughs her way into the action with droll vulgarity. The Act 1 closing number is an anti-climactic let-down.

But after intermission, things pick up significantly. The plot gets tighter, and resonates more. Composer-lyricist David Yazbek moves from jokey-if-clever lyrics (rhyming “cojones,” “bonus” and “testosterone is”) and anti-melodic through-lines to loves ballads like “Breeze Off the River” and “You Walk with Me” (the latter an emotional song delivered in a breathy, cracked voice by a grieving son and his boyfriend that genuinely milks a tear). And the ending number, “Let It Go” — when the men strip down to their birthday suits — has an infectious hummability.

In addition to Daugherty, Stephen Bates as the tubby, self-conscious Davey, Jason Kennedy as suicidal security guard Malcolm and Guinn Powell as the jiving older black guy do good work, but Michael Isaac, as Jerry, falters: The songs are slightly outside his vocal range. I’d have preferred to see John Venable, who has a minor role and plays in the 11-man band, try his hand at it. Well, maybe not his hand. You catch my drift.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.