‘The Full Monty’ spices up the stage at The Empty Space

Yasmin Marcelo, Staff Writer

Courtesy of The Empty Space: The cast of The Full Monty from left to right, (Top Row) Jeremiah Heitman, Nick Ono, TevinJoslen, Trenton Benet, Eric Lempinen, Matilyn Powell, Katelyn Evans, (Middle Row) Victoria Olmos, Salvador Vidaurri, Nate Pugh, Alex Mitts, Ciaran Lollar, Emily Thompson, Julia Rios, (Bottom Row) Eric Miranda, Tessa Ogles, Julie Gaines, Jordan Fulmer, Missy Lonsinger, Ariel Clark (Courtesy of The Empty Space)

The Empty Space’s production of The Full Monty, the theater’s first indoor in-person performance, successfully ran from September 3-25 and ended with a bang. Ariel Clark, who fabulously played Vicki Nichols, expresses how much emphasis The Empty Space put into ensuring the vaccination status and health of the actors, the staff, and the audiences secure everyone’s safety in an in-person setting.

Kristina Saldaña, financial director ofThe Empty Space and director of the musical, discusses how “it was really important that the cast remain dedicated and cautious of everything they were doing in addition to learning the show…” to guarantee that their castmates would stay safe. She also mentions how they had a “little bit of extra time to account for if anybody got sick” to allow quarantine time. The musical production, which boasted a minimalistic yet bright setting, had everything from family, friendship, and, of course, male strippers.

Apart from all the raunchiness, profanities, and sexual innuendos, the musical went over a lot of topics that people can universally relate to. The Full Monty tactfully covered the issues of unemployment, co-parenting, toxic masculinity, homophobia, body image, suicide, and death. The show’s plot mainly revolves around Jerry (Alex Mitts), a recently unemployed steelworker, who is trying to bond with his son, Nathan (Ciaran Lollar).

Jerry, struggling to co-parent with Pam (Missy Lonsinger)and to make ends meet, gets his friend, Dave (Nate Pugh), and decides to gather four other men as fellow dancers in the striptease act they are planning on putting together.

The four other stripper characters were delightfully brought to life by Trenton Benet, Jordan Fulmer, Tevin Jolsen, and Eric Lempinen. The production excelled in not losing its heart amidst all the humor in the story. Mitts’s Jerry and Lonsinger’s Pam both effectively convey where they are coming from in their disagreements as co-parents.

Tessa Ogles’ Georgie and Pugh’s Dave beautifully depict the inner struggles of a long-term relationship, the insecurities a couple can face, and the importance of good communication in a marriage. Clark’s Vicki wonderfully showcases her patience and devotion to her husband.

Although it was a side story, Benet’s Malcom and Lempinen’s Ethan do a lovely job of illustrating the connection and giddiness people feel at the very early stages of the relationship. All the nudity in the show were well executed and were not terribly obscene for the audiences. They did not distract from the plot at all, and the scenes involving them were played out with their relevance to the story in mind.

From the audition process, The Empty Space was very transparent about the fact that the six lead men would be in scenes that require full nudity.

Saldaña’s co-director, Jeremiah Heitman, a trained intimacy director, held separate rehearsals for the six men and worked closely with them to help them get comfortable with the demands of the scenes.

The directors and choreographer were also mindful of the final dance number, which involved a striptease that ended in full frontal nudity from the six male leads, and approached them with sensitivity.

Jennifer Skiby Plunket, the choreographer of The Full Monty, interpreted the show’s upbeat songs well with all the fun and captivating dance numbers. Clark states, “Skiby… is really good at running things over and over again, and… fixing little moments to really match what’s best for [the performer].”

She also talks about how Skiby and the vocal director, Jill Burdick, were both helpful in the actors’ learning process of simultaneously executing the choreography and the song. Both Saldaña and Clark choose “Big Ass Rock” as their favorite scene to watch as it really exhibited Mitts’s, Pugh’s, and Benet’s comedic timing and talent in carrying out the irony and humor relayed in the song.

Saldaña’s favorite scene to direct, “The Goods,” is Clark’s favorite scene to be in because of the women’s heavy involvement in the number, their amazing costumes, and sassy choreography.