At a time when a number of Broadway musicals have been built unimaginatively -- and unsuccessfully -- around popular films (Footloose, Saturday Night Fever), the creative team behind The Full Monty, which opened on October 26, 2000, succeeded by avoiding an exact recreation of the acclaimed 1997 British movie about a group of unemployed steelworkers in Sheffield who decide to become strippers. For one thing, the setting has been moved to Buffalo, NY, allowing the men to become typical working-class Americans who drink beer and cheer Michael Jordan. From there, though the overall plot is the same, the details are all different, while the film's mixture of comic and pathetic elements is preserved. No small part of the show's success is the score of first-time composer David Yazbek. His work is steeped in American popular music of the 1950s and '60s, especially R&B, with funky rhythms and a busy horn section. And his lyrics, full of American colloquialisms, capture the work's comically desperate tone, notably in "Big-Ass Rock," a song that finds two of the male characters kidding a third one out of suicide by sarcastically describing various ways to achieve it. The Full Monty has the feel of a bunch of aging jocks together for a Monday night football game, if those guys were as witty as they think they are after a few brews and could sing. And the ensemble cast gives the score an excellent reading. Annie Golden stands out among the women and André De Shields among the men, but there are no bad performances. Who'd have guessed that such a quintessentially English movie would be adapted into such a quintessentially American musical?
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann