Manatee Players pull off ‘The Full Monty’ musical

From left, Jason Lipton, Patrick Higgins, David Addis, David Walker, Keith Faris, David Russell, Jason Ellis and Craig Engle.
From left, Jason Lipton, Patrick Higgins, David Addis, David Walker, Keith Faris, David Russell, Jason Ellis and Craig Engle. Brian Craft

A show about a bunch of guys taking their clothes off in front of a thousand women doesn’t sound like a natural fit for a community theater in Bradenton. It’s a little risque and perhaps (depending on your sensibilities) kind of tasteless. You definitely don’t want to bring the kids.

On opening night, a few people (not many) didn’t come back to their seats after intermission, and from their conversations it seemed as though the subject matter offended them.

Still, the Manatee Players’ new production of “The Full Monty” has everything it needs to be a hit. David Yazbek’s songs are catchy and delightful from start to finish. The sets by Donna Buckalter work in concert with the lighting design by Joseph P. Oshry to create settings that are appropriately dreary without being off-putting. The book by the great Terrence McNally is hilarious and occasionally poignant, and the five-piece pit orchestra sounds remarkably full.

The cast, directed by Dewayne Barrett, is generally strong, too. The acting is charismatic and natural, and undeniably courageous, and the actors get the most out of McNally’s script.

There was a big problem on opening night, though: lots of flat notes from several singers. Even in the big numbers with most of the cast signing, the harmonies were very often audibly sour.

Lots of problems that happen early in a show’s run get solved or ameliorated in ensuing performances, and that could be one of them.

The story, as most people know, involves a bunch of steelworkers who have lost their factory jobs. The women in the town (the musical moves the setting to Buffalo, N.Y., from the English town of the original film) have become the breadwinners, and they spend a lot of their time and money watching Chippendales dancers, who are performing locally.

One guy is so far behind on his child support payments that he’s in danger of losing the right to see his son, whom he adores. That guy gets the idea to raise money by putting together a show featuring local guys stripping. Since most of the guys aren’t all that hot, he decides they should go “full Monty” and get completely nude on stage.

Manatee Players newcomer Keith Faris has the central role of Jerry, the instigator of the scheme, and he’s great to watch, especially in the more tender moments. Despite the raucousness of the main story, there’s a healthy dose of poignancy in the show as well.) There’s not a bad performance, barely even a moment of weak acting, from the entire cast. Besides Faris, some of the best performances come from David Walker as one of the strippers and young Patrick Higgins as Jerry’s son.

The show’s a bit overlong (three hours, including intermission), but thanks to the songs, the book and the acting of the 19-person cast, “The Full Monty” still ends up being a load of fun.

Details: Through May 7, Stone Hall at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $27-$37. 941-748-5875, manateeperformingartscenter.com.

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear