Until last Friday night, I hadn’t been to the Palace Theatre in Manchester in years. But I still can remember one of the last movies I saw there back when I was 14 – The T.A.M.I. Show, which starred The Rolling Stones, Lesley Gore, the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, James Brown, the Supremes, and more. In fact, I had a program booklet and a poster from the show, which, if I hadn’t cut out all of the photos to stick in my scrapbook, probably would be worth enough today to fully fund my retirement.
Anyway, last weekend I went to see the live stage performance of “The Full Monty” at the Palace. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, it’s a musical comedy about six unemployed men who are so desperate to earn money, they decide to stage a one-night-only performance as male strippers. The problem is, however, they aren’t built like strippers and don’t have a clue how to dance. But… they are willing to take it “all” off – or, go the “full monty.”
My friend Barbara couldn’t rave enough about the play when she invited me. “You’ll love it!” she said. “I saw it about five years ago and it was hysterical!”
“Well, before I say yes,” I answered, “tell me if they really do strip down to their birthday suits.”
“I’m not going to tell you and ruin the surprise!” she said. “You’ll have to find out for yourself!”
So out of curiosity, and the fact I figured that at the very least, I’d probably be able to see six scantily clad men, I agreed to go.
We parked on the third level of the Citizens Bank parking garage across the street from the theatre. As we were walking down the three flights of steep stairs, I kept thinking I was going to have to climb back up them when we came back.
I was pleased to see that the theatre hadn’t changed much since I’d last been there. It still had the same rustic charm. No cup holders on the arms of the seats, no fancy psychedelic décor. It was the theatre I remembered. Even the steep staircase up to our seats in the balcony hadn’t changed.
Believe me, it wasn’t an evening for someone who has trouble climbing stairs.
Barbara was right. The show was hysterical. I laughed so hard at times, my stomach hurt. For example, one scene that really cracked me up took place in a men’s restroom. One of the characters, a woman who was desperate to “go,” was in the restroom and, with her underwear down around her ankles, kept trying to contort herself so she could straddle the urinal and aim into it.
And then there were the stars of the play, the male strippers, who were all shapes and sizes – tall, short, overweight, pale, bald, thin. Watching them rehearse their striptease routine in preparation for their big night was like watching auditions for circus clowns. When the overweight guy removed his shirt and then squeezed his belly fat to make the folds look as if they were a mouth talking, the audience roared. And when he put on a red G-string over his saggy white BVDs and pranced around on the stage, everyone laughed even harder.
That is, except for the guy sitting in the row in front of us.
He was with a woman I assumed was his wife. She laughed and applauded while he sat there with his arms folded and his bottom lip jutting out in a seemingly angry pout. His expression never changed – not even so much as a hint of a smirk. Barbara and I were making bets about when or if he finally would give in and chuckle, but he never did. We got the distinct impression it strictly had been his wife’s idea to see the play. And after intermission, we noticed their two seats were empty.
“I’d have made him go wait out in the car while I stayed to watch the rest of the show!” Barbara said.
“I’ll bet if it had been female strippers, he’d have stayed,” I said.
As the play headed toward the much-anticipated final scene, the question the would-be strippers onstage kept asking themselves was, “Will we actually do the full monty and strip down to nothing, or won’t we?”
One minute they decided they would and the next, they changed their minds. Meanwhile, Barbara sat there with a knowing smile on her face. My brain kept coming up with devious ways in which to force the information out of her.
Finally, the scene I’d been waiting for arrived. The six guys performed their strip number. They danced, they teased the audience, they removed one piece of clothing at a time. The women in the audience cheered and urged them to “take it off!”
They ended up wearing only their red G-strings and hats. They turned their backs to the audience and removed their G-strings, and we were given a view of their bare backsides. But when they turned around, they were holding their hats in front of their private parts.
Just as they began to drop their hats, the stage went black and the curtain came crashing down with split-second timing.
End of show.
Personally, I think the show’s final performance (October 11) might really pack a punch if someone could bribe a couple of the stage hands to “interfere” with the lighting and curtain during the show’s final few seconds.
But hey, that’s just my opinion…