“You already know you’re going to love it,” goes the advertising tagline to the musical Mamma Mia!, and much the same thing could be said of the Sheffield audience arriving to see The Full Monty brought back home to the city where the 1997 film of the same title was set.
A scene from The Full Monty at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield Photo: Tristram Kenton
It has already previously been adapted for the stage as a Broadway musical in 2000, but that show transposed the action to a community of former steelworkers in the upstate city of Buffalo, NY, and gave them an alternately punchy and sentimental score of new melodies by David Yazbek to articulate their frustrations and disappointments with, set to a revised book by Terrence McNally.
But now Simon Beaufoy, Oscar-nominated for his screenplay for the film, has himself adapted it for the stage, and director Daniel Evans has faithfully returned to the film’s soundtrack that includes songs by Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones, to provide a warm, affectionate version of a story the audience already knows so well.
The play’s film origins are also apparent in its structural flow of distinct episodic scenes, even if they are mostly played out on a unit set of Rob Jones’ impressively recreated shell of the now disused steelworks, soon to be pulled down to be turned into luxury canalside flats.
But for now this industrial hall is still dominated by Old Margaret, as the crane that manoeuvres the steel girders is dubbed in a reference to Margaret Thatcher. As in Billy Elliot, another film subsequently adapted for the stage dealing with industrial decline in the 1980s, her violent legacy is portrayed here in less than affectionate terms - at one point, a bust of her in the premises of the local Conservative Club is spat on.
Returning the six men to where their lives and careers were effectively stopped, as they search for new ways to escape their impoverishment and discover a new sense of empowerment in stripping to raise money to help one of them pay for his son’s child maintenance duties, is a masterstroke, since it grounds the action in both reality and atmosphere.
Beaufoy also retains the essential warmth of the characterisation and camaraderie that the men find in each other, and a lot of his jokes from the original film. But Evans makes it enjoyably fresh in the appealing casting of a set of perfectly normal blokes; there’s not an Adonis among them. Instead, audiences can readily identify in the everyman qualities of Kenny Doughty as Gaz, the father desperately trying to maintain his relationship with his son Nathan, and Roger Morlidge as his friend Dave, finding his own marriage under strain and his belly bulging, but learning that a new sense of self-respect can be found in friendship and a group endeavour.
There are also lovely supporting performances around them from Sidney Cole’s Horse, Craig Gazey’s Lomper, Simon Rouse’s Gerald and Kieran O’Brien’s Guy, each with their own back stories (or in Guy’s case, an imposing front story in his well-stocked briefs) that have brought them here.
It all, of course, culminates in the big strip of the title (wittily choreographed by Steven Hoggett). But by now the men have revealed far more of themselves to ensure the ongoing popularity of this story and the warm glow of enjoyment that palpably spreads around the audience.
The Full Monty is already booked for an 11-week regional tour – I suspect the West End will surely beckon, too, though reprising the warmth of its reception in its home city will be a tough act to follow.