I'm fairly sure there wasn't anyone in the late 90s who didn't love The Full Monty. With an Oscar winning soundtrack and cast that hit the nail on the head in so many ways, the film version hit the big screen in 1997 and grossed $258 million at the box office.
Arriving in a theatre full of middle-aged women (and probably the odd hen party or two, if truth be told) there was an amount of trepidation when I took my seat. I've seen the UK tour of the play, which is currently playing down the road in Birmingham, and it could be considered a risk to go up against a fully funded national production. However I was more than pleasantly surprised!
This production is a take on the original Broadway musical as opposed to the film or play. The action is set over the pond in America and, whilst it loosely follows the original plot, the location, story and characters are different. It tells the tale of six unemployed men, who decide to form a male striptease act after seeing the success of professional troupes. Their reasoning - aside from being a bit inquisitive - is to gather enough money to get somewhere else and for one of the men to be able to continue seeing his son.
However, camaraderie is soon put to the test when it's declared that their show will be better than the Chippendales, because they'll go 'the full monty'. Despite being a comedy, the show also touches on serious subjects such as unemployment, paternal rights, depression and sexuality.
The Full Monty is definitely one of the funniest things I've seen on stage in recent months. With proper laugh out loud moments, I think the connection the stage version has with the audience means this was possibly funnier than the film version. However those moments of hilarity were often tinged with poignancy which showcased the talent that the actors on stage have.
When the quality of an unpaid cast rests so squarely on their joint effort, it seems churlish to pick out star performers. The obvious choice would be our six male leads who definitely go the extra mile...but actually, the youngest member of the cast, playing Nathan - the son who might lose his Dad for good - was a definite hit with every member of the audience. For someone so young, his performance was a mature and brilliantly rehearsed one which endeared him to everybody in the audience and earned him the rapturous applause he received during the finale.
The musical version of The Full Monty encompasses many aspects of the much loved film. As a homage it stands apart from so many poor stage equivalents and is an absolute must see for any 90s kids who love to reminisce. If you're looking for Donna Summer and thrusting in Post Office queues, that's not what you're going to see - however this take on the story is equally as poignant and Bilston Operatic present an incredibly strong cast, which continues to prove that the state of local theatre in the West Midlands is an ever increasing positive!
The Full Monty runs at Wolverhampton grand Theatre until Saturday 10th November. For more inforamtion, or to get tickets, head to grandtheatre.co.uk.