This year marks the 25th anniversary of the film The Full Monty, chronicling the hardships faced by a group of laid-off men in 1990s Sheffield. So what do they decide to do? Become strippers, of course! The current leg of the UK tour is playing at Manchester Opera House until Saturday 17 February, and we had a peek at the production last night (February 13).
Inspired by a visit by famous 80s strippers the Chippendales to a Sheffield club, Gaz (Danny Hatchard) can’t let go of the idea of stripping to raise enough money to be able to see his son, Nathan, brilliantly played by Rowan Poulton. Finally roping in friends and strangers alike, the ‘Bums of Steel‘ truly go through their ups and downs, starting on the bum note of not actually being able to dance, but with direction from enemy-turned-trainer Gerald (Bill Ward), and the camaraderie built between the lads, you better believe they’ll see it though.
Danny Hatchard leads the narrative immensely, playing the role of naively optimistic, Jack-the-lad Gaz very convincingly, accompanied by best mate Dave (Neil Hurst) whose support is endearing throughout, and becomes an unlikely star of the show.
Bill Ward does the character of Gerald huge justice, moving from uptight snob to fun-loving friend with ease, and props must be given to TV personality Jake Quickenden in the role of Guy, painting the portrait of a tortured soul all wrapped up in a shiny, camp package – and often keeps the dream alive for the lads. A special mention should also go to star of stage and screen Ben Onwukwe, for his incredible Northern Soul moves and commitment to the role of the elderly Horse.
We were particularly enamoured by the soundtrack, too, as although The Full Monty isn’t a musical, the tunes stitching scenes together, and indeed those used to practice the stripping, were second to none. The 80s and 90s sounds of Pet Shop Boys, Primal Scream and M People kept us grooving in our seats, and the inclusion of bangers like Hot Stuff by Donna Summer and Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing to loosen the lads’ hips (and inhibitions) really cemented the context of the story, and encouraged much seat-dancing and head-bopping from the audience.
Of course, what we were truly waiting for was the final strip (duh), and although there were teasers throughout (not sure if you could call Mr Quickenden’s audition rounding out the end of act one a ‘teaser’…) when that famous opening brass of You Can Leave Your Hat On by Joe Cocker started up, each and every member of the audience was absolutely ready for the Full Monty…
The smiles on faces both on and off stage alike really said it all, and when the actors are having as much fun as the audience, it’s impossible not to love The Full Monty – we certainly did.
Grab your tickets for The Full Monty at Manchester Opera House here before the final show on Saturday 17 February.