The Full Monty is one of those feel-good movies you can't help but turn on when you see it playing on television, no matter how many times you've seen it before. Telling the story of Gaz Schofield and his best mate Dave, we follow the pair on their journey to reclaim jobs after the once-successful steel mills of Sheffield, South Yorkshire were closed down.
Resorting to stealing scrap metal from the abandoned mills for a quick bit of cash, the duo and many like them are out on their luck, living from day to day without the ability to plan ahead and look after their families.
Facing trouble from his ex-wife Mandy and her new boyfriend, Gaz is threatened with never seeing his son Nathan again if he doesn't keep up with child support payments. It sounds like a grim tale, but when a Chippendales show pulls into town, Gaz comes up with an extraordinary idea to earn himself a few thousand pounds in one night and suddenly, gallons of humour is injected into the story.
As such a fan favourite movie, bringing The Full Monty to the stage was always going to be a tough job, but it's one that producers David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers have managed to do impeccably well, surpassing any and all expectations.
Gary Lucy takes on the lead role of Gaz here alongside Kai Owens as Dave, and the pair's chemistry is something to be admired. They bounce off one another perfectly, with fantastic comedic timing whenever they're aiming to land a joke and an on-stage friendship you can be sure carries through to their real-life relationship. Though Lucy's Yorkshire accent can be a little all over the place at times, for the most part he delivers a solid performance, and he's definitely an actor the audience went wild over whenever he showed just the smallest hint of flesh.
Chris Fountain is another actor that got deafening whoops and cheers when he peeled off his shirt. Acting since the age of 10, he's already a veteran when it comes to being on the stage, and his presence and professionalism shines through. He takes on the role of Guy with confidence, unafraid to really get into the character's psyche and deliver a multi-layered and multi-dimensional character that could have easily been stereotypically and offensively presented.
The first time we meet Anthony Lewis as Lomper, he's preparing to hang himself from the rafters of one of the abandoned mills Gaz and Dave frequent for scrap metal. Though his attempts at taking his own life could be full of misery, the show manages to inject humour rather than allow the scene to be overcome by darkness. Lewis is an absolutely brilliant addition to the cast and never strays from his dim-witted yet extremely loveable role.
Then we have Louis Emerick and Andrew Dunn as Horse and Gerald respectively. The two have, along with Lucy been with the tour since it kicked off, and so have probably performed the Full Monty hundreds of times in front of thousands of excited crowds. Their tenacity and dedication to the show is something to be admired. They show no signs of fatigue and genuinely look to enjoy every moment they get to be on stage. The pair are an asset to the group and I couldn't imagine the show without them.
The performance of the night however has to have come from the young Reiss Ward who played Gaz's son, Nathan. He's a fantastic little talent who should have an incredibly bright future ahead. Talented child actors are for me hard to come by; I find them draining and hard-to-watch the majority of the time, but Ward was perfect as Nathan.
So, how was the strip when all was said and done? A pure delight to watch - and no, not just because of the men involved! The humour and choreography pummelled into the routine was absolutely spot-on, mirroring what has gone before it whilst delivering its own style. There wasn't a person in the theatre without a grin on their face when all was said and done.
What was refreshing to watch in the show was the scene in which Guy and Lomper have a heart-to-heart about sexuality, being gay and the ramifications of coming out to loved ones. It's not something you would imagine to come from a show of this sort and is delivered in a subtle yet moving way in a lengthy scene that didn't have to be included. Props to all involved for that.
Despite a power surge that saw the show delayed by around 10 minutes, the lighting and set was a sight to behold. You really felt as if you were within the abandoned mills with the gang, or at the job club with all those struck by the Conservative government. In today's world with Theresa May at the forefront of British politics, there's a sad relatability in what you're watching. You can't help but do a little internal whoop when Gaz sticks his chewing gum on the end of the nose of a bust of Thatcher herself.
The Full Monty runs in the Opera House, Manchester until November 5.